I was very effusive in my praise of J.T. Barrett two years ago, calling his season easily one of the best in Ohio State history. Last year, Barrett was awful early. Awful in fall camp. Awful in the early games. Then came the DUI, which was more awfulness. He was even full of more awfulness against Michigan State. BUT THEN, J.T. dominated Michigan and crushed Notre Dame in back to back games. So which J.T. is playing this year?
Early indications are that Barrett has taken the next step forward in his development. The term "monster" was conveyed to me. People think he's much better than he was in the final two games. If that's true, that elevates Ohio State in my eyes a lot. Heisman Trophy Barrett is better for OSU than Struggling Against The MAC Barrett.
Joey Burrow was really good in the spring, but he is being pushed by Dwayne Haskins, who has been better than expected. Should Barrett go down with an injury against Oklahoma, who would get the call? It will probably be Burrow. Should J.T. leave early, who starts next year? That one might not be answered until one year from today.
Bear with me here, because I hate being the bearer of bad tidings, but Zeke Elliott CANNOT be replaced. Can't happen. You do the best you can with what you have, but we might not see another Zeke for many years. What will OSU do with this position? Especially with the inside running game so crucial to overall success? Let's take a look.
Mike Weber has a chance to be really good, no question. Is he ready to carry the ball 25 times, many of them between the guards? Is he ready to be a huge asset in the passing game? Is he a great, not just good, blocker? No. No. No. He will start and play well. He's not Zeke. He's not Carlos Hyde. He has never carried the football in a college game yet. Give him time.
I've already said that people think Curtis Samuel is possibly the best pure football player on the roster right now. His role HAS to increase dramatically. He will get the football. As a slot receiver. And as a runningback. Can he take the pounding between the guards week after week? No, he cannot. And this is where the loss of Brionte Dunn factors in. Was Dunn a great player? No, but he was like a fifth starter in baseball that eats innings. It's a loss.
I know there's a lot of hype surrounding Antonio Williams, and the potential is there. To date, he has not proven to be ready for prime time carries. He has 9 more sessions over the next 6 days to prove he's ready. Playbook. Blocking. Audibles. Catching the football. Now he's going to play. But is it against Bowling Green only? Or against Oklahoma? We shall see. Dontre Wilson will get carries on sweeps and pop passes from the runningback spot.
THE TIGHT ENDS:
Marcus Baugh is the incumbent and at this point he is who he is. I've always loved the guy, but he never seems to take the next step. They want to throw it to the tight ends more this year, but it's up to Baugh to make them throw it to him by being good.
The surprise here is A.J. Alexander, who has been a different player so far. Catching everything. Blocking. This was a guy you just didn't have a handle on last year on the scout team. So far, he looks like a contributor.
They brought in three freshmen, and Jake Hausmann is way ahead of the other two. He's going to play. How much? That will be determined by Baugh and Alexander. Should they slip, Hausmann is ready to go. Luke Farrell and Kierre Hawkins are not really close yet.
SUMMARY: Barrett has to be great for this team to live up to its lofty ranking, and there's no way around that. The runningback dropoff can be negated by Barrett's running, but more importantly by him being a true passer. Seems a lot to ask with an inexperienced line and inexperienced receivers, but you also have lots of inexperience at runningback. They are going to have to outscore people to win big this year, I believe. That all falls on Barrett being great, not just good.