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Ohio State Football: Grading J.T. Barrett After 4 Games

Ben AxelrodBig Ten Lead WriterSeptember 30, 2014

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown for 642 yards and 10 touchdowns in his last two starts.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown for 642 yards and 10 touchdowns in his last two starts.Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For somebody as detail obsessed as Urban Meyer, it's rare that the Ohio State head coach isn't prepared to answer any and every question about his team.

But at his weekly press conference Monday, one inquiry in particular caught Meyer off guard.

"It's a good problem to have, but if J.T. keeps playing well, have you thought much about the situation next year?" a reporter asked.

Meyer initially squinted his eyes, confused, until he realized the direction that the question was heading.

"Not until you said that," he responded with a smile.

The premise to the question was a reference to Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett, the reigning Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week who just threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns Saturday in the Buckeyes' 50-28 win over Cincinnati.

The question itself brought in Braxton Miller, the two-time MVP who Barrett replaced and who plans on returning for the 2015 season after recovering from a season-ending shoulder injury.

"Braxton's our quarterback," Meyer continued with his answer. "To be fair, Braxton's the Big Ten Player of the Year. But it's good to know we've got both of them."

The fact that the question—a legitimate one—was even asked of Meyer on Monday is telling of just how far Barrett has come, and not just from the start of the season. After all, it was a mere three weeks ago that his status as the Ohio State starter could have been called into question after a 9-of-29, three-interception performance in the Buckeyes' Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech.

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While J.T. Barrett has impressed, Braxton Miller has been strapped to the sideline with a shoulder injury.
While J.T. Barrett has impressed, Braxton Miller has been strapped to the sideline with a shoulder injury.Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

But since OSU and Barrett were dealt their defeat at the hands of the Hokies, the redshirt freshman signal-caller has been on a roll. In two post-Virginia Tech contests, Barrett has tallied a total of 642 passing yards, 85 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception, all while directing the Ohio State offense to a combined 116 points in wins over Kent State and Cincinnati.

"I had a lot of confidence in J.T.," Meyer said. "I love J.T. He's fun to coach. He's a guy that has a great demeanor on the sideline. He's a student of the game."

Those traits have certainly assisted Barrett lately, albeit against two Ohio teams with less-than-stellar defenses. But regardless of the competition he's faced, it's worth noting that his two latest efforts have made Barrett the first Buckeye to throw for at least 300 yards in consecutive games since Troy Smith did so to end the 2005 season.

No, Smith never did during his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2006, nor did Terrelle Pryor in his three seasons as a starter or Miller in his three. Barrett's recent progress in the pocket has been a breath of fresh air in the Ohio State offense, which has struggled to throw the ball with consistency since Meyer took over the program in 2012.

"I'm being more confident, I'm being more relaxed," Barrett said following the Buckeyes' beating of the Bearcats. "I was trying to make sure everything was right. Now I'm knowing that I'm going to make mistakes, and learning from them throughout the game. I'm not going in there trying to be perfect."

And while Barrett hasn't been perfect in his past two games, he also hasn't been far from it.

Earning a pair of Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors with a bye week sandwiched in between, Barrett has thrived in his role as a distributor, completing passes to 11 different receivers against Kent State and 10 different players against Cincinnati. Those are the type of numbers that the Ohio State coaching staff expected this season from Barrett, who is admittedly less of a one-man show than the more physically gifted Miller.

Sep 27, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) warms up before the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

But what Barrett lacks in measurables, he's made up for mentally. As the Hokies' 46 Bear defense threatened to become a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes, Ohio State has shown that it will take more than just a single scheme to stop it—a big part of which has been the stellar play of its signal-caller.

"He's an extremely intelligent guy. He understands that we want to run the play, but there's certain looks where [we] don't run that play," Meyer said. "They went to a Bear, we had a 'bear beater' and he immediately got us into it, we hit two big plays and they got out of it.

"That's what a quarterback has to do."

Barrett obviously still has room for improvement—Meyer pinned a pair of false starts of his young quarterback and called for him to use his voice to have a better command of the offense—but his recent progress has been the catalyst in a revitalized OSU offense that has finally found its footing in Miller's absence.

And as for Miller? Meyer insists that the plan's still for him to reclaim his starting spot in 2015 should he recover from the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that put his senior season on hold.

But should Barrett continue on the trajectory he's on, there's no telling what the future of the Buckeyes' quarterback position could hold, as Meyer may find himself spending a little more time on a question he previously thought he'd never have to answer.

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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