In 2014, my annual summer beach trip was pretty much ruined due to one devastating headline: Braxton Miller was set to miss the whole season with a shoulder injury. I was a dedicated Ohio State football fan, but I had not yet reached the point in my fandom where one begins to follow recruiting. I knew little information about the young backups who had yet to prove themselves, so I believed the upcoming season to already be over. After the 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech, my pessimism looked as if it were turning into a reality. JT Barrett appeared to not belong at a program like Ohio State, and my 16-year-old self quickly became a hater of the freshman quarterback.
Although he was unable to finish the season, he was magical for the rest of that year following the game against the Hokies. After that loss he was not necessarily best friends with the Buckeye faithful like myself, but he did not quiver under the pressure, instead he seemed motivated by the question marks surrounding him. As the season continued, his play improved on the field, but he grew as a leader as well. This leadership was on full display when the 19th ranked Buckeyes walked into East Lansing to face the eighth ranked Michigan State Spartans, and left with a 49-37 win. Barrett looked like a poised senior, and guided Ohio State up and down the field to win a game that not much of America expected them to. Yes, that was three years ago, but that will be the game I will reflect on when I think of JT Barrett. Since then he has been praised and at times called out by Ohio States fans, but when his back is against the wall he has stepped up, and that Michigan State game was when this pattern began.
At Ohio State, a season when the team doesn’t compete for a national championship, is a waste, and a season when the team doesn’t even compete for a Big Ten Championship is considered catastrophic, so expectations are obviously pretty high around Columbus, Ohio. Under Urban Meyer, Ohio State has never lost more than two times (that could very well change this year), but when losses come, they are met with extreme scrutiny. Because the 2015 team had an NFL player at most positions on the roster, it was expected for them to win the national championship. When they lost to Michigan State that year blame fell on the coaches; fans called out the play calling and Urban Meyer, and even Ezekiel Elliott called out the coaches. Barrett was given somewhat of a free pass for that game.
In 2016, nobody knew what to expect from Ohio State. Joey Bosa and Elliot, to mention just a few of the Buckeyes that had been drafted, were gone, but one consistency remained, JT Barrett. Barrett looked decent throughout the season, but Ohio State was successful that year largely due to the defense led by standouts, Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore. After the Michigan game, I knew Ohio State did not belong in the playoff; they struggled to move the ball against above average defenses like Michigan’s and Penn State’s, and at times it felt like Ohio State’s defense had a better chance of scoring points than its offense. Because of this, I was not one bit surprised by the beating Clemson delivered to Ohio State. Barrett looked average, the receivers looked terrible, and the defense looked and was tired due to being on the field for the majority of the game.
I questioned if Barrett still deserved to be the starting quarterback for the 2017 season after that game, but that thought was stupid and childish. The success of Barrett and Ohio State in the past had spoiled me, and yes, the team was led by the defense in 2016, but a team with that defense does not win games if they do not have a quarterback like Barrett to lead the team to game tying and game winning drives in both games against Michigan and Wisconsin of that year. When the pressure mounted, Barrett remarkably always answered the call that season before losing to a Clemson team that went on to win the National Championship.
Barrett’s ability has been called into question once again this season. He has had poor games against Oklahoma and Iowa, but the whole team has played terribly in both of those games, yet Ohio State is still in contention for the playoff because of their quarterback. The game against Penn State was another game this year that a large portion of the team did not show up for. Special teams messed up time after time, Ohio State’s defense was penalized again and again, but who was there to make up for these mistakes? Barrett. He made clutch throw after clutch throw, and kept Ohio State within striking distance when one mistake would have ensured victory for the Nittany Lions. Of course, the season is still not over, and maybe with some help from Alabama and Miami, the Buckeyes do sneak into the College Football Playoff, but that game against Penn State is reflective of Barrett’s career and it was very reminiscent of the Michigan State game in 2014.
He has given this university so many great moments, and between the wins and the records he has broken, he has brought remarkable success. To think Ohio State would have been better off without Barrett this year and this past year, is stupid and unfair. It may be hypocritical for myself to make that statement; I have lashed out at Barrett on Twitter a time or to, but I acknowledge that I only react this way to Ohio State’s struggles because Barrett has spoiled me. He has made championships an expectation, and it is for that reason that I will remember JT Barrett as one of the best quarterbacks to ever wear the scarlet and grey, and that is how everybody else should remember him as his regular season career as a Buckeye comes to an end in the upcoming week.