Ohio State’s Bar­rett poses prob­lems

Terps have strug­gled to stop mo­bile passers, and Buck­eyes QB is among the na­tion’s best

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sport­sprof56

J.T. Bar­rett was in Bal­ti­more when he in­tro­duced him­self to the col­lege foot­ball world. Against Navy at M&T Bank Sta­dium in 2014, Bar­rett be­came the first fresh­man to start a sea­son opener at quar­ter­back for Ohio State since 1950.

“I was just a young pup,” Bar­rett said in a tele­phone in­ter­view Tues­day.

He com­pleted12 of15 passes for 226 yards and two touch­downs, ran for 50 yards on nine car­ries, and helped Ohio State es­cape with a closer-than-it-looked 27-14 vic­tory.

His last­ing mem­ory isn’t wholly pos­i­tive, though.

“I re­mem­ber the pick I had, on a scram­ble, the safety came down and got it in the cor­ner of the end zone,” Bar­rett said. “But I think over­all, it was a good day.”

Go­ing into Satur­day’s game at Mary­land (5-4, 2-4), Bar­rett has since had a lot of other good days for No. 5 Ohio State (8-1, 5-1), in­clud­ing com­plet­ing18 of 23 passes for 267 yards and four touch­downs as well run­ning for 71 yards and a touch­down in a 52-24 win at Mary­land in 2014 — the Terps’ first game as part of the Big Ten.

Af­ter break­ing Drew Brees’ Big Ten record for to­tal touch­downs in a sea­son with 45 as a fresh­man, Bar­rett now has a to­tal of 94, just 10 be­hind the ca­reer record the fu­ture New Or­leans Saints star set while at Pur­due from 1998 to 2001.

Bar­rett has 27 touch­downs this sea­son, in­clud­ing four in last week’s 62-3 blowout of Ne­braska.

The 6-foot-2, 222-pound red­shirt ju­nior has been through a lot since that open­ing game against the Mid­ship­men.

The week af­ter the Navy game, play­ing Vir­ginia Tech at “The Horse­shoe,” Bar­rett com­pleted just nine of 29 passes and threw three in­ter­cep­tions in a shock­ing 35-21 loss to the Hok­ies. Then came 10 straight vic­to­ries, the last of which was against ri­val Michi­gan.

The game against the Wolver­ines tem­po­rar­ily changed the di­rec­tion of Bar­rett’s ca­reer. With the Buck­eyes cling­ing to a 28-21 lead af­ter three quar­ters, Bar­rett broke his an­kle while be­ing tack­led on the first play of the fourth quar­ter.

Bar­rett’s in­jury led to the emer­gence of red­shirt fresh­man Cardale Jones, who led the Buck­eyes to two fourth-quar­ter touch­downs to pre­serve a 42-28 win. Along with Ohio State red­shirt ju­nior quar­ter­back J.T. Bar­rett passes against Ne­braska on Satur­day. The red­shirt ju­nior threw for four touch­downs in a 62-3 blowout of the Corn­huskers. Ezekiel El­liott, Jones helped Ohio State crush Wis­con­sin, 59-0, in the Big Ten cham­pi­onship game. Jones then played a big role in the Buck­eyes beat­ing Alabama and Ore­gon en route to a na­tional ti­tle.

Jones ini­tially beat out Bar­rett and Brax­ton Miller for the start­ing quar­ter­back job in 2015.

“Go­ing into the sea­son, Cardale was prac­tic­ing bet­ter than me, and the way you prac­tice is how you play,” Bar­rett said. “So, I wasn’t prac­tic­ing well, so that was keep­ing me from the field. At the end of the day, I re­ally want what’s best for the team.”

Bar­rett re­gained the No. 1 po­si­tion seven games in, against Rut­gers, when he ac­counted for five touch­downs. Af­ter be­ing sus­pended for a game af­ter be­ing charged with driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence, Bar­rett held the job for the re­main­der of the sea­son.

Ear­lier this sea­son, Ohio State coach Ur­ban Meyer com­pared Bar­rett to one of the best col­lege quar­ter­backs in re­cent mem­ory — for­mer Florida star Tim Te­bow, who­helped Meyer and Florida win na­tional cham­pi­onships in 2006 and 2008 while also win­ning the Heis­man Tro­phy in 2007.

“J.T., in his own way, is ex­actly on the same level as Tim,” Meyer said. “Those are two elite lead­ers. J.T. cer­tainly is at that level.”

Mary­land coach DJ Durkin got his first look at Bar­rett last year when he was the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Michi­gan last sea­son. It was not a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence for Durkin. Though the Wolver­ines lim­ited Bar­rett’s pass­ing to 9-for-15 for 113 yards and one touch­down, Bar­rett rushed 19 times for 139 yards in a 42-13 romp.

“Ob­vi­ously you can tell how com­fort­able he is in their scheme and what they do,” Durkin said. “He’s got com­mand of the of­fense, com­mand of the team. He’s a great leader. He can beat you throw­ing it or run­ning it. When you have a quar­ter­back who can do ei­ther one, that presents is­sues for a de­fense. Let alone an ex­pe­ri­enced guy like that who’s been through all the bat­tles, all the tests and done a great job, he’s one of the best there is in the coun­try, for sure.”

The Terps have strug­gled stop­ping the run — and against mo­bile quar­ter­backs in par­tic­u­lar — this sea­son. Now they face one who can beat them with his legs and arm.

“You have to make sure when you’re pass rush­ing, you have to keep him inside the pocket and limit the amount of yards on non-de­signed QB runs,” de­fen­sive tackle Azubuike Ukandu said.

Bar­rett ac­knowl­edged Tues­day that his de­mo­tion and sub­se­quent re­turn to the start­ing lineup made him ap­pre­ci­ate his sit­u­a­tion more than he did as a fresh­man.

“The main thing is, just take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity that we have, the short time we have in col­lege,” Bar­rett said. “While we’re in it, it seems like it’s go­ing to last for­ever, but it’s only four or five years of our whole life. It’s like our life is a book, and this is four or five chap­ters in the book. I try to do the best I could on the field, and off the field as well.”

JAMIE SABAU/GETTY IMAGES

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