Entering his fourth spring at Ohio State, J.T. Barrett has never been the sure No. 1 quarterback -- until now.
That fact was more evident than ever at Ohio State’s Student Appreciation Day, when fans of all ages surrounded Barrett, more than any other player asking for autographs, pictures or simply a close up glimpse of the Buckeye signal caller.
In three previous Student Appreciation Days, Barrett was never the center of attention, even after finishing fifth in the Heisman race in 2014. Cardale Jones was the fan favorite last year coming off of his title run while Barrett sat out spring coming off of surgery, and prior to that Braxton Miller had everyone’s attention.
Now, with all eyes on him Barrett said he could do without the added attention that comes with being Ohio State’s quarterback.
"I am trying to stay as far away from famous. It’s the simple fact that, playing quarterback here, fame and publicity, it’s really not for me,” Barrett said. “I just want them (the fans) to know that I appreciate what they do for us during the season. Fame and all that, I'm cool. That is not for me. That is for somebody else. If they want it, they can have it."
While Barrett may not want the attention that comes with being the Ohio State quarterback, he said one teammate that used to be in his unit may be pressing too much to earn the eyes of his coaches and teammates.
Torrance Gibson, who was recruited to Ohio State as a quarterback, switched to receiver in the fall of 2015 in an effort to see the field sooner with Barrett and Jones battling for time behind center.
After not cracking the lineup in the first few games of 2015, rumors that Gibson could transfer began to circulate. Barrett became Gibson’s “Big Brother” later that season and said that the highly talented freshman is doing everything he can to see the field in 2016, but is perhaps too hard on himself.
“I think the main thing with him is, this is a new position. So he beats himself up because he wants to be great. But there is the simple fact that he hasn’t done it before. It takes time like any other thing,” Barrett said. “You play quarterback your whole life and then you get to college and you switch to receiver. It’s going to take a minute, so you just need to slow your roll and everything is going to be alright. He wants to impact the game so much and you can see that he cares but he just needs to take his time.”
If there is anyone on this team that knows about taking his time, it is Barrett who has spent two spring practices in his time at Ohio State nursing injuries and watching other Buckeyes flourish behind center. In 2013, he watched as Miller took home his second Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Award, then watched as Jones hoisted Big Ten, Sugar Bowl and National Championship trophies after his injury in 2014.
Barrett spent spring ball in 2014 competing for what was at the time, a competition between him and Jones to be Miller’s backup. Now, a similar competition is underway to see who will be Ohio State’s No. 2 quarterback when the season starts on Sept. 3. Barrett, who has been in the shoes of Joey Burrow and Stephen Collier, offered some advice to the two athletes vying for the backup role.
“Every day out here in the spring playing quarterback is not going to be the greatest, but you have to try and get better at something each and every day,” Barrett said. “I think both of them have taken (on) that challenge for themselves. I think that’s good for us being that, we are one play away from something happening to me and they are going to have to step in and make a play. They are on a path towards that.”
During spring ball, Burrow looks to be getting the majority of the second string reps, however Collier is entering his third season in the program and has taken more reps in his career at Ohio State.
In addition, four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. is set to arrive on campus in the summer and could enter the mix for the backup spot as well.
No matter who wins the job behind Barrett, it seems the Buckeyes will have their options to plug in should Barrett go down.