J.T. Barrett doesn’t get what all the fuss is about.
OK, he’s a smart kid. He gets what all the fuss is about. Ohio State just won the national championship, and the quarterback roster includes a two-time Big Ten MVP, the league record holder for single-season touchdowns and a national championship-winning signal caller.
But to Barrett, it’s simple. The best quarterback at Ohio State will take the first snap when the Sept. 7 opener at Virginia Tech arrives. The other two of that trio will stand on the sideline and do their best to support the starter.
“Somebody is taking a back seat but knowing that it's what’s best for the team,” Barrett said after Thursday morning’s practice. “I know Coach Meyer and Coach Beck are going to go in the direction that is best for the team when the time comes, and I think that's the right thing to do. It shouldn't be given to somebody. Whoever is going to win it is going to be the right choice for the team for us to get where we want to be.”
And if that person happens to be Braxton Miller, the starter in 2012 and ’13 who led Ohio State to a 22-2 record as a starter and was named the winner of the Big Ten Silver Football each of those two years, so be it.
If that person is Cardale Jones, who stepped up and used his big arm and punishing frame to pilot postseason victories vs. Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon on the way to the national championship, so be it.
And if that person is Barrett, who went 11-1 as a starter and accounted for 45 touchdowns (34 passing, 11 touchdowns) and was well on his way to being the first-ever player in college football history with 3,000 passing yards, 1,000 rushing yards and 50 TDs in one season, that would be great as well.
"I mean, if you're talking about the quarterback position, there's only going to be one guy that is going to be able to get the snap each and every play,” Barrett said. “There's going to be patience, yeah, if I'm not the starter. I'll definitely be patient, but that's not anything I'm afraid of or something like that I don't want to do.
“If I'm not starting, then I'm obviously not doing something right. I can always get better. With that being said, I'll just keep on trying to get better and working."
Of course, right now, all things aren’t equal. Jones is healthy and leading the offense during camp along with redshirt freshman Stephen Collier while both Barrett and Miller rehab from injuries. Miller, who did not speak to the media Thursday, is throwing again but without a tremendous amount of oomph after August surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Barrett, meanwhile, is done with all surgical procedures related to the broken fibula in his right leg but is still working to regain strength in his leg and as a result is limited to throwing in seven-on-seven drills.
“I am feeling pretty good,” he said before adding he wouldn’t rush back just to return to the QB battle before fully healthy. “I am putting a lot of pressure on it as far as throwing the ball downfield and things like that, but not anything crazy. I wasn't running or doing anything like that, but being able to throw the ball is something I wanted to do in the spring."
Barrett echoed comments from Jones and new quarterbacks coach Tim Beck that the three quarterbacks remain close and encourage each other on the field. That might seem counterintuitive considering each wants to lead the defending national champs on the field, but Barrett pointed out that’s the nature of athletics at a place like Ohio State.
"I think that's all of sports, especially at a high level,” he said. “You are going to be friends and help each other get better, but also you still have to fight. You are going to compete but off the field you're friends and things like that. There's always that inner competitiveness that everybody has on this team that you want to play for Ohio State and be the starter."
When the season opens at Virginia Tech, only one player will be the starter. Barrett said he’ll have to focus on his performance and be a leader to fill that job, and he expects to have to be better than he was a year ago when he smashed Ohio State records and led the Buckeyes to the precipice of an eventual crown.
“I think I was blessed to have Coach Herman, Coach Meyer design a way for me to best fit this offense, and that's something that I really appreciated,” he said. “I also think there's a lot of things I could have done better.”