Accolades Aside, Room To Improve For Barrett

J.T. Barrett has been impressive six games into his career, but the coaching staff says there is plenty of room for improvement.

The Buckeyes dominated Rutgers Saturday, earning a five-score win in their first ever game against the Scarlet Knights. Piloting the 56-17 beat down was redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.

The quarterback finished his day 19 of 31 for 261 yards and three touchdowns. He was the Buckeyes leading rusher with 107 yards, adding two scores on the ground. He was named the Big Ten Offensive Player and Freshman of the Week.

For his head coach it wasn’t good enough.

“I like the way when coaches say, ‘Okay, you're Big Ten player of the league, but you didn't play very well. Here is what you can do better,’” Urban Meyer said. “As opposed to, ‘Great, job, great job,’ when it really wasn't.

“He could have played a lot better. There's nothing quite like a guy that thinks he played great, then a position coach jumps right in the middle and says, ‘This is what we could have done better.’”

Barrett completed his first nine passes, but finished his day completing just 47.6 percent of his last 21 attempts. After his ninth pass found Ezekiel Elliott the quarterback missed on three straight tosses, the first two leading to the Buckeyes only punt of the day.

Ohio State’s coaching staff is constantly seeking perfection and their never-satisfied mindset meant that despite being the conference player of the week the staff did not grade Barrett as one of their offensive champions against the Scarlet Knights.

“He misfired on a couple balls, threw a ball behind Evan Spencer, missed on Dontre Wilson on a touchdown,” Meyer said. “A couple plays. But that happens.”

While Barrett missed throws, he did little wrong on the ground. He ran seven times, most of them on scrambles, gaining a team high 107 yards. Meyer pointed to his 33-yard touchdown scramble in the third quarter as a great individual effort, one indicative of his excellent decision making. The Buckeyes were attempting to run a screen on that play, but it was well covered and Barrett immediately recognized that and took off down field.

It’s that type of decision making that Barrett is starting to display each week, showing the control of the offense that the staff wants to see out of their young quarterback.

“He's only continued to wow me with his leadership and maturity,” wide receiver coach Zach Smith said. “It's not that surprising, but it's rare. It's rare that you have a kid this young that kind of has that maturity and understanding and intangible value. But he definitely has it.”

That maturity means that the coaching staff is perfectly comfortable with Barrett leading the team into a hostile environment Saturday night at Penn State. It will be the quarterback’s second true road game, but the setting is expected to be far more unfriendly than a noon kickoff at Maryland earlier this season.

With six games under his belt, perhaps Barrett is ready for that type of scene, ready to take another step in his development. The quarterback has been impressive this season. He’s completing over 65 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

More so than his numbers, his demeanor has earned him the respect of his teammates.

“I’ve always been one to commend him on it because it’s almost like he demands respect,” senior receiver Evan Spencer said. “He’s so mature for his age, and that really shows with his play. He struggled early on, but now that we’re in the rhythm, now that we’re clicking, J.T. is out there as a leader of our offense. It’s kind of a reflection of his personality.”

According to his coaching staff there is still plenty of room for Barrett to improve, despite what appears to be an abundance of leadership skills. If that improvement does come, the final six teams on the Buckeyes schedule, starting this week at Penn State, should be concerned.


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