Discussing what he expects to see from J.T. Barrett in the first start of his college career, Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman used a mixed metaphor to explain the responsibilities of the quarterback in the Buckeyes' spread offense.
"We don’t do a whole lot on offense, despite what some think we may or may not do,” Herman said. “We don’t ask the quarterback to be a rocket surgeon by any stretch of the imagination."
But while Barrett won't be playing the role of "rocket surgeon" when Ohio State takes the field for the Buckeyes' season opener against Navy on Saturday, the redshirt freshman won't be without responsibility. No matter how much the OSU coaching staff downplays Barrett's role, the fact remains that he's the player tasked with replacing two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller, who was sidelined for the season a week ago with a torn labrum.
And while it's far-fetched to think that Barrett could replace the 263.5 total yards per game that Miller averaged a season ago right away, there's no denying that a large burden of the Ohio State offense has been placed on the Wichita Falls, Texas, native's shoulders.
So how does Herman plan on reconciling Barrett's obvious inexperience with his undeniable responsibility? It starts with a simple game plan that won't require a rocket surgeon to employ.
"You want to make sure that you call plays that maybe you guys might say are conservative, but yet don't have all the ifs, this's and thats attached to them," Herman told reporters. "We kind of live in that world anyways, especially with our tempo."
Keeping the X's and O's simple is one thing, but keeping Barrett's nerves intact? There's no accounting for that.
Just a month ago, Barrett was little more than the Buckeyes' third-string quarterback, a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option at football's most important position. Now? That emergency has happened, and the redshirt freshman finds himself preparing for the first start of his college career—and on the road nonetheless.
To a certain degree, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit knows exactly what Barrett is experiencing. An Ohio State quarterback from 1989-92, Herbstreit knows what it's like to be preparing for one's first start with the scarlet and gray—and all of the feelings that come along with it.
But asked by B/R what Barrett needs for a successful week, Herbstreit didn't add pressure to the second-year signal-caller. Rather, the College GameDay analyst said that this is where Herman and OSU coach Urban Meyer will earn their money as they get Barrett prepped for every possible predicament.
"If you’re worried about, ‘I’ve never seen this coverage last week in practice, I didn’t see this front with this coverage,’ if you get into that, that’s a slippery slope," Herbstreit said. "So, I think it’s really up to Urban and Tom Herman to put these guys in as many difficult situations as they can. If they do a good job of that, then you can just go out and kind of react to the game."
And if Barrett can do that, then surely Herman will feel much more secure with such an inexperienced player directing his offense. Right?
Not because Herman isn't confident in Barrett's ability—he's actually had nothing but praise for the former 4-star prospect this past week—but rather because there are certain situations Herman himself is rarely comfortable in. Asked if he's ready to see Barrett face his first third-down conversion attempt, the OSU offensive coordinator admitted he's not, but that would still be the case if it were Miller taking snaps for the Buckeyes.
"I haven't felt OK in 12 years in that scenario," Herman said with a smile. "It's no different than any other time."
So with so much unknown about both Barrett and the OSU offense heading into his first start, what are realistic expectations for both the Buckeyes and their new quarterback on Saturday? It's tough to tell. But Herman certainly likes what he has in his new starter, rocket surgeon or not.
"He's a grown man. He's a grown dude. And I know the enormity of the moment may or may not hit him at some point," Herman said. "I know there's a lot of schools that would take our scenario over what they got."
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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