When the Ohio State football team had its first day of spring practice on Tuesday morning, the Buckeyes appeared to be well off at arguably the most important position in the sport.
Four quarterbacks participated in various drills during the first hour or so of practice that media was invited to watch. The quartet of signal callers included fifth-year senior J.T. Barrett, third-year sophomore Joe Burrow, redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins and 2017 early enrollee Tate Martell.
Barrett, Burrow and Haskins were all rated as four-star prospects coming out of high school, while Martell was a five-star standout.
So how does head coach Urban Meyer juggle having so many talented quarterbacks this spring?
“We had a lengthy discussion,” Meyer said Tuesday of he and his staff. “The most important thing, how do you split up reps between a guy like Tate Martell - Tate Martell thinks he’s playing. No one tell him he’s not going to play. Joe Burrow is one of the toughest cats and most competitive guys. Dwayne Haskins, we still haven’t seen his ceiling yet. Yes, it’s a perfect situation but you also have to think through and manage reps. You’re also dealing with personalities too, that are very talented guys."
Barring nothing drastic happening between now and the start of the 2017 season, Barrett will be the team’s starting quarterback. Though the Wichita Falls, Texas, native has accounted for a program-record 100 touchdowns (69 passing, 31 rushing) thus far in his OSU career, Barrett still takes some criticism from those who follow the Buckeyes for the offense having its ups and downs.
Meyer explained that the level at which the offense is performing is not solely dependent on the play of the quarterback, though.
“Alex Smith was my quarterback at Utah (from 2002-04) and I remember he got drafted by the (San Francisco) 49ers (first overall in the 2005 NFL draft) and the 49ers weren't very good back then,” Meyer said. “And I started getting all this feedback about how Alex Smith is a bad quarterback. He is a bad quarterback because he was on a very bad team.
“What happens is, quarterbacks often times get too much credit when everyone is playing well around them, but then they get a lot of the blame. When we are playing well like (against) Nebraska (last season), J.T. obviously played great (26-of-38 passing for 290 yards and four touchdowns) when the offensive line or maybe the receivers or other guys weren't playing well. Maybe he wasn't, then he gets a little bit of criticism. It comes with the job description.”
Barrett also owns the school record for most touchdowns responsible for in a game, which was seven (six passing, one rushing) in the 2016 season opener vs. Bowling Green. The Rider, Texas, product has been named Big Ten Quarterback of the Year twice, and was the winner of the 2016 Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award, which recognizes the best player in the Big Ten as well.
While Barrett certainly has more than enough accolades attached to his name, Meyer noted his veteran quarterback is lacking one key component on his résumé.
“How do you measure the success of the quarterback?” Meyer said. “Some people do passing yardage but you’ll never hear me talk about that. It’s wins and losses. He’s a very decorated quarterback, his winning percentage (.897 as a starter) must be off the chain. However, he’s never lifted the trophy yet – and I’m talking about the Big Ten championship or the next one after that.
“In my opinion, that’s how quarterbacks should be measured. Are you a champion? Have you led your team to a championship? It’s the most unique position, in my opinion, in all of sport. How do you measure them? Obviously, Tom Brady (of the New England Patriots) is the greatest quarterback of all time. Why? He’s won more championships (five Super Bowls) than any other quarterback. That’s how J.T. is going to be ultimately measured.”
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