By Matt McCoy
One game into his Buckeye career, J.T. Barrett has made quite the impression on his Buckeye teammates.
"I don't think everybody could come in and do that," Left Tackle Taylor Decker said. "I thought he played great...I was impressed."
In Ohio State's opener against Navy, Barrett finished 12-15 passing for 226 yards with two touchdowns and his one blemish--a red zone interception in the second quarter.
"I was not surprised at all by J.T. I thought he handled himself very well for his first start," coach Urban Meyer said. "You take away the interception and I think he did very well. He's a very, very cognitive quarterback...a very smart quarterback that gets us in the right plays and makes the right decisions."
The Big Ten took notice of Barrett's performance, naming him the league's freshman of the week.
How Good Was He?
Let me start by saying in no way am I predicting that J.T. Barrett will have the kind of career Urban Meyer's best known quarterbacks have had....only time will tell. But if you compare what Barrett did in his first start with the first starts of Alex Smith and Tim Tebow, he fits in very nicely.
Smith played for Meyer at Utah in 2003 and '04. He was pressed into his first start after Utah's starter in '03 was injured in week two. Smith took over the job that year and Utah went 10-2. The next year he became a Heisman finalist, leading Utah to an undefeated season and was the number one pick in the NFL draft.
In Meyer's national championship season at Florida in 2006, Tebow played on a regular basis as a freshmen, but Chris Leak started every game, with Tebow coming in as a short yardage specialist. The next year, as a sophomore, Tebow became the starter and won the Heisman Trophy. He led the Gators to the national title the following year and a 13-1 record as a senior. Check out first start numbers of Tebow, Smith and Barrett.
Tebow's first start: 13-17 passing, 300 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT...8 rushes for 38 yards and 1 TD in a 49-3 win over Western Kentucky.
Smith's first start: 18-37 passing 136 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT...12 rushes for 71 yards and 1 TD in a 31-24 win over California.
Barrett vs Navy: 12-15 passing, 226 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT...9 rushes for 50 yards in a 34-17 win over Navy.
Barrett's 226 yards through the air are the third most for a Buckeye quarterback in his first career start behind Kenny Guiton's 276 yards vs Cal last year and Steve Bellesari's 243 yards vs Ohio U in 1999. Barrett's total represents the most ever for a freshman QB in his debut.
Barrett's first start productivity was also favorable when compared to Braxton Miller's in his first start in 2011. It should be noted that Miller was in an impossible situation. For starters, he was a true freshmen...not a redshirt. He was also on a team dealing with constant turmoil following the firing of Jim Tressel. Players were being suspended on a weekly basis and the team around Miller was not even close to what Barrett enjoys. The coaching Miller got at quarterback that year was questionable as well. Having said all of that--here's Miller's numbers.
Miller's first start: 5-13 passing, 83 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT...17 rushes, 83 yards in a 37-17 win over Colorado.
Again---I'm not saying Barrett is going to be Tim Tebow, Alex Smith or Braxton Miller...but what he did Saturday against Navy was pretty darned good.
O-Line Needs Work
The old coaching cliche' is that teams make the biggest improvement from week one to week two. Urban Meyer is hoping that is the case with the offensive line. At Monday's weekly press briefing, on multiple occasions, Meyer said the line did not perform at the level Ohio State needs.
"Our offensive line did not play like an Ohio State offensive line," Meyer said. "The standard was set many, many years ago and I think coach (Ed) Warinner the last two years really added to the reputation of Ohio State's offensive line...we did not play like that. The second half we played pretty good but pretty good is not what we expect. You play pretty good this week (against Virginia Tech) and you won't win that game."
To listen to all of Coach Meyer's comments at Monday's media briefing, click here:
My AP Ballot
We had to submit our pre-season AP ballot last month before the injury to Braxton Miller. With Miller, I had Ohio State number five.
Following the injury, and before the opening weekend games, I re-evaluated my pre-season rankings. Had we voted following the Miller injury, I would have had the Buckeyes number 12.
What you'll see on my ballot is a five spot drop for Ohio State but it's more accurately a two spot improvement. While OSU's performance against Navy was by no means perfect, I thought Barrett's debut was impressive and it was a solid win over a pretty good team.
With that all said, here's how I voted this week.
1) Florida State
7) Michigan State
9) Texas A&M
10) Ohio State
17) Kansas State
18) Arizona State
19) Notre Dame
24) North Carolina
25) South Carolina