J.T. Barrett wasn’t one of those players. The redshirt freshman quarterback was on the field, donning a black Sugar Bowl Champions hat, but he wasn’t running anywhere. Instead, his right leg was propped up on a wheeled scooter as the surgically-repaired broken bone in Barrett’s leg continues to heal.
Barrett didn’t contribute on the field in the Buckeyes win over Alabama or in the 59-0 drubbing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game that earned them a trip to New Orleans. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a major part of the victories.
Though he wouldn’t be playing, the injured quarterback addressed his team before they took on the Crimson Tide.
“Even though he is younger than a lot of guys on the team, people have said it before, he is a natural leader and he is just a guy you will rally around even though he is not playing,” left tackle Taylor Decker said. “You want to hear what he has to say, a guy like that because he is well respected. When he talks you listen, just because he is not out there playing with us does not mean he is not a leader on this team. He still did do that for the Alabama game and I am sure that for this next game he is going to do that as well.”
Barrett earned the starting quarterback job in the fall after the injury to incumbent starter Braxton Miller largely because of his decision making. Though he is in no position to make decisions on the field right now that skill has not gone to waste.
The redshirt freshman has been on the sidelines as Cardale Jones’ started and won against Wisconsin and Alabama, offering his former backup advice throughout. He’ll be there again for the CFP National Championship in Texas.
“Oh yeah, it’s not like we just threw him away,” Jones said. “J.T. and Braxton are still in meeting rooms. They still get held accountable as if they were starters.
“He just gives his two cents, his perspective. What he sees from the sideline and what I should do in certain situations.”
While Jones has played well when forced into action, it’s plausible that the Buckeyes would not be in a position to win a national championship without the efforts of Barrett. After a rocky start to the season, the freshman established himself as a Heisman Trophy contender. He eventually finished fifth in the voting for that award.
Barrett threw for 2,834 yards in 12 games and set a Big Ten record for most total touchdowns ina season with 45. His passer rating of 169.82 is the second best in the country this season, trailing only Oregon Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
“Cardale is a great player,” Barrett said on Dec. 3, days after undergoing surgery to repair his broken fibula.” I honestly feel like if I wasn’t starting this year, Cardale would’ve done the same things that I (did) this year because Cardale’s that talented.”
Barrett has watched that talent from the sideline for more than two games now – he elected to go to the stands rather than immediately receive treatment after suffering his injury against Michigan.
It would be easy for Barrett to sulk, to focus on how is record-breaking season could have ended instead of accepting the unfortunate way that it did. But the quarterback is about team goals and his injury didn’t take those off the table for Ohio State.
“As far as individual awards and records, that’s cool,” Barrett said. “But at the end of the day if I walk away from Ohio State without a Big Ten Championship or national championship I’m really not satisfied.”
The Buckeyes are one win away from satisfying his desire. Though he won’t play in the national championship game, if Ohio State wins Barrett will have earned his ring.