Urban Meyer has made the switch at quarterback, and for the first time since a 42-28 win over Michigan in November, J.T. Barrett will start a game for Ohio State.
After spelling Cardale Jones in the red zone, then ultimately for the rest of the game in a 38-10 win over Penn State, Barrett collected four total touchdowns and kept the Buckeyes perfect in the red zone for the second straight week.
That production against the Nittany Lions led to the switch, Meyer said Tuesday on the Big Ten teleconference.
"J.T has earned the right to start Saturday at Rutgers," Meyer said. "Just the sheer production. Cardale is going to play a very active part, too. We're hopeful to keep him very much involved. It was a difficult decision but the red-zone production and third-down production were the two areas that made the difference."
Barrett was given multiple opportunities to earn the job during the regular season when Jones struggled, especially during less-than impressive collective team performances against Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.
However, Barrett largely underperformed in those games finishing combined 20-37 passing for 167 yards and one touchdown to two interceptions. Likely due to those performances, Barrett did not make an appearance in a 34-27 win over Indiana.
The last two weeks though, Barrett has accounted for seven total touchdowns and Meyer said Monday during his weekly press conference that he and the coaching staff are starting to see the execution improve.
“He certainly had an opportunity earlier in the year and did not do it. Same thing with training camp,” Meyer said. “Anyone who watched the game the last two weeks, he gets in – and I think we're doing a good job calling things that he's good at.”
Ohio State star running back Ezekiel Elliott said after the most recent victory that Barrett’s presence on the field has been largely beneficial to the Buckeye offense.
“Everything is in order when he is in there. Everything runs very smooth,” Elliott said. “When J.T. came in there, we knew that the zone reads were going to work really well. His ability to attack them on the ground worked to our advantage.”
While he has only attempted six passes in the last two games, Barrett has completed all of them, including two scores through the air against Penn State.
Barrett said after the game that his early struggles were attributed to him trying to do too much to earn more playing time, if not the starting job outright.
“The first two weeks I was trying to come in and make plays and I was trying to just force it. That's asking for bad things to happen when you try to force things instead of letting the game come to you. That's what my focus was, just let it come to me,” Barrett said after the win over Penn State. “With our plays, just execute the best I can and put our offense in the best position each and every play. I wasn't trying to force things anymore and that’s what happened in the red zone. Just playing my game, just let it come to me instead of forcing it.”
Barrett is now set to make his first start of the season against Rutgers, whom he dominated last year in a 56-17 win.
Against the Scarlet Knights, Barrett threw for 231 yards and three scores and added 107 yards and two scores on the ground while the Buckeyes dominated Rutgers last season.