Meale: Urban Meyer Must Bench J.T. Barrett

And so, it has come to this.

Urban Meyer, in his sixth season at Ohio State, is at a crossroads. He hasn’t done it, doesn’t want to do it, and claims he hasn’t even considered doing it. But it need to be done.

He needs to bench J.T. Barrett.

This claim is not made lightly. It’s not Monday-morning quarterbacking. It’s not dramatic prisoner-of-the-moment drivel. It’s not clickbait.

It’s simply the right thing to do.

Ohio State was embarrassed on the national stage yet again Saturday night, with Oklahoma spanking the Buckeyes, 31-16, in Columbus. If not for a series of self-inflicted errors by Oklahoma, the 15-point margin of defeat would have been much worse. Ohio State scored just one touchdown and forced just one punt.

Other than that? Boomer Sooner, baby. Big time.

It would be unfair to pin the loss solely on Barrett, who finished 19-of-35 for 183 yards and an interception. No, this was a team effort. Ohio State’s defense has allowed 927 yards through two games, including 806 through the air, not to mention six passing touchdowns. That unit, which lost three first-round picks from its secondary, looks like a shell of its former self.

And yet, Ohio State’s offense will – and should – dominate the national Buckeye narrative. Why? Because in their last three games against elite competition (Michigan, Clemson, and Oklahoma), the Buckeyes have scored just two offensive non-overtime touchdowns. And one of those touchdowns came on a 13-yard “drive” set up by a Wilton Speight interception and a Jim Harbaugh penalty.

Two regulation touchdowns. In three games. That’s it.

Barrett’s passing stats in those three games: 44-of-100 (44 percent) for 434 yards (144.7 yards per game), zero touchdowns, and four interceptions.

At this level, against that competition, that ain’t gonna cut it.

Urban Meyer, however, isn’t ready to concede defeat. When asked Saturday night if he would at least consider – consider! – a change at quarterback, Meyer said, “No. No.”

This defies logic.

The QB cupboard at Ohio State isn’t bare. It’s full. It’s plentiful. Dwayne Haskins, Tate Martell, and Joe Burrow were all highly ranked recruits who, if given a chance, could succeed in a Kevin Wilson offense. Last year, Barrett had his flaws, but the offensive line, receivers, and play-calling didn’t do him any favors. Wilson, who turned Indiana into an offensive juggernaut, was supposed to change that. Through two games, he hasn’t.

Will he? Well, that depends on Meyer.

Look, Meyer and Barrett have history. Good history. Barrett was the first quarterback Meyer recruited to Ohio State. When Braxton Miller went down for the season in 2014, Barrett stepped in and, as a redshirt freshman, guided Ohio State to a 12-1 regular season. Cardale Jones got the glory for his brilliant three-game stretch, but the Buckeyes don’t win the national title without Barrett.

But that was then. This is now.

Then, Barrett was a Heisman Trophy contender. Now, he’s a lost cause – or close to it. When Barrett drops back, nothing comes easy. Nothing. On Saturday, Baker Mayfield, who torched Ohio State for 386 yards and three touchdowns, was a video game; Barrett was a toddler trying his hand at Madden. Mayfield was wheeling and dealing all night. He oozed confidence. He was in the face of every unit before every possible game-changing play or series. His leadership was apparent, his focus singular, his execution flawless.

Barrett was a decrepit fifth-year trying to feel his way out of a phone booth. On the edge of a cliff. On a moonless night. He seems not only reluctant, but terrified, to throw downfield. When he actually musters the courage to do so, his receivers either drop would-be touchdowns or whiff completely.

It’s sad.

The optimist will point out parallels between 2014 and 2017: bowl loss to Clemson the previous season, shaky Week 1 performance, embarrassing two-score prime-time home loss in Week 2. In 2014, Ohio State responded with 13 straight wins to claim its first national title since 2002.

This year feels different.

Yes, all three national champions in the playoff era lost a home game. Two lost home games in September. Two lost home games to unranked teams, including Clemson a season ago.

Don’t expect Ohio State to continue that trend. The Buckeyes have lost three of their last nine games and, one could argue, should have lost a few more.

If anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s Meyer, who has won three national championships and is 62-7 at Ohio State. But since winning it all in 2014, his teams have routinely come up short in big spots. Meyer, in particular, has often played not to lose, quarterback-running his way into three-and-outs and leaving his defense out to dry.

Head coaches are at their best when following a simple maxim: dance with who brung ya. Meyer, for whatever reason, often goes against this for no apparent reason. In a November 2015 home loss to Michigan State, Ezekiel Elliott carried just 12 times. Ohio State scored 14 points, lost by a field goal, and missed the playoff. With the damage done, Meyer got back to basics. Elliott carried 57 times for 363 yards and six touchdowns in his final two college games, as Ohio State beat Michigan and Notre Dame – both top-10 teams – by a combined score of 86-41.

Why Elliott was not given more carries against Sparty, no one will ever know.

Need a more recent example? Sure, no problem. In his first collegiate game, J.K. Dobbins carried 29 times for 181 yards (6.2 yards per carry) against Indiana. On Saturday, he carried just 13 times – for 72 yards and a touchdown. That’s a 5.5 yards-per-carry average, folks, and this was a 17-13 game in the fourth quarter. Why was Dobbins not more involved?

Ohio State had 1st-and-Goal midway through the third quarter with a chance to go up seven and seize control. Might be a good time to hand off to Dobbins, right? Wrong. Kid wasn’t even on the field. Instead, it was quarterback run, quarterback run, incomplete pass, field goal.

By the time the Buckeyes threatened again, the game was out of reach.

Meyer has a monumental yet fixable problem on his hands. He has stacks of top-five recruiting classes but nothing to show for it. The Buckeyes are talented, but they are not elite – and they will not be elite without a change at quarterback.

Barrett has won big games and holds numerous records. In fact, he’s a couple of touchdowns shy of Drew Brees’ Big Ten record. Barrett will pass Brees, but he should do so not as a starter, but rather, as a change-of-pace backup orchestrating a run-heavy package. Meyer has four lay-ups upcoming – Army, UNLV, Rutgers, and Maryland – to experiment with new arms and legs. He should. If he doesn’t, it will define Ohio State’s 2017 season and, quite possibly, his legacy in Columbus.

Even with a new OC, Ohio State’s play-calling remains an enigma. The quarterback play, however, is not. It’s as straightforward as it gets – and painful to watch.

Opposing defenses have figured out J.T. Barrett. It’s time for Urban Meyer to do the same.

Tony Meale is a Chicago-based author, journalist, and content creator who uses words to inform, educate, entertain, and inspire. A Cincinnati native, he has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University. He began his career as a high school sports reporter before writing and publishing 2012’s “The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron,” a behind-the-scenes look at the greatest sports story never told. He’s been creating written and spoken content ever since.

Comments

One Comment

  1. Criticizing Urban for only giving Elliott 12 carries vs MSU in 2015? Think maybe he got 12 carries because he only averaged 2.75 yards per carry? Sure, give me some more of that.

    1. Buck Breen says:

      Barrett had 15 rushes for 44 yards 2.9 avg.. His passing wasn’t any better in that game 9/16 46 yards 2.9 avg.. Bottom line the writer has got this right. On the 7 yard line Dobbins and Weber both should have been in at that time. Towards the end Meyer should have put Haskins in the game. Hopefully Haskins does get some playing time the next coupe of games.

  2. Barrett has been a bad choice since mid season 2016. I was surprised when Urban brought him back. JT lost his decision making.

  3. Jeff Flinn says:

    What makes anyone think that the right side of the OSU O-line will “miraculously” get better with a back-up quarterback taking over? What is it about OSU’s performance thus far that makes ANYONE think that the OSU receiving corp will just “miraculously” become a vaunted passing attack with a second-or-third-string QB taking snaps? Does anyone think the OSU coaches are going to sit down and draw up a whole new playbook, just for a second-or-third-string QB to run? Going to a third-string QB worked in 2014 because OSU had O-line talent across the board (and RT Daryl Baldwin turned out to be the best D-to-O conversion of the century); 12-Gauge had Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson to throw to; and Zeke proved himself to be worthy. Other than J.K. Dobbins’ breakout game vs. Indiana, the OSU offense has NOTHING similar. Just replacing the QB is not going to make a bit of difference. Fixing the right side of the defense would be a bigger start, followed by bringing two tight ends in and running smash-mouth football down people’s throats.

    1. Jeff Flinn says:

      … right side of the OFFENSE … (in the above rant).

      1. Agreed. By replacing JT right now would effectively show that Urban is giving up and the rest of the season would be dedicated to getting experience for the Burrow (if his hand is ready) or Haskins.

        I don’t why it’s so hard for people to realize that JT is relatively the same player he has always been. Except now he has no receivers to throw to, lest he try to force a play like last Saturday and create turnovers. He’s not throwing the ball away every series for nothing. It’s because the Buckeye receivers cannot create any separation and do not get open.

        I do find it rather discerning, however, the coaching staff telling him to avoid hits anytime he tucks it on a QB pressure. I feel as though his abilities to make opponents miss was one of his greatest assets.

  4. Hey jimmy—this is about moving on from JT which Urban must do. And given the obvious talent of Elliott, let him carry 12 more times & see what happens ! But JT has lost a step or two, he thinks way too slow, has never been a good passer, & the records mean nothing when the numbers are what they are in the big games. I had way more confidence in him his first season. I have none now. We will lose more games this year with him at QB. If we’re gonna lose, let’s get Haskins ready for the future. At least Urban would have an excuse !

  5. “Dwayne Haskins, Tate Martell, and Joe Burrow were all highly ranked recruits who, if given a chance, could succeed in a Kevin Wilson offense.”

    Ohio State isn’t running Kevin Wilson’s offense. It is running Urban Meyer’s offense. Kevin Wilson is just calling the plays.

  6. Robert Smith says:

    I said it when it happened but I’ll repeat it now. Joe Burrows’ wrist injury may turn out to be the most significant injury of the season

  7. Yes! J. T. needs benched, but also the offensive coordinators who called such inept plays, and the defensive coaches who failed to teach proper tackling techniques and who also failed to adjust their game plan as the whipping by OU progressed! Indeed, this was a total team fiasco….nuff said!!!

  8. John Evans says:

    The reason Zeke had 12 carries against MSU was because he spent the week before the game in the hospital with a staph infection in his shin/leg. They didn’t know until game time if or how much he could play. RT has been a problem in 2015,16 and 17. Same with the receivers. Also, JT is on his third QB coach and third OC in four years. Nothing has been the same since Tom Herman left.

  9. David Mercer says:

    All other problems noted, anybody notice the D-backs? I see them looking at the receivers, and not looking to see where the ball is. They seem to be content on watching the receivers catch the ball, rather than possibly making a play on the ball.

  10. I totally agree with the writer!! And to add fuel to the “Bench Barrett” reasons, Barrett sat on the bench with a dejected look and no fire while Mayfield was on fire on the sidelines keeping his team on top of their game and motivated to win! If Barrett would have done that it would have been a whole different ball game! One could easily tell there was no leadership on or off the field during that game! BENCH HIM!!

  11. Barrett looks buzzed/stoned all the time. Perhaps he has a substance problem.

  12. Dave Nantz says:

    I have been saying this about Barrett for a long time. He is a horrible passer. Horrible. Nobody is afraid of him. 8 in the box shows that.

  13. Dave English says:

    Barrett can’t hit a 15-20 yard open receiver with confidence. He does not have any touch in 3rd and long situations. OSU might contending for the Big Ten title with this set up, but they will be clobbered again in the CFP with Barrett not being able to connect with open receives on 3rd and long.

  14. JT has been playing scared ever since he came back from the broken ankle… he appears, while watching him play, he has no confidence in his own decision making as well….

  15. Daron Davis says:

    Stop blaming the QB. OU only punted once and had 600 yards of total offense. Maybe you should look to the defensive side of the ball instead.

  16. Daron Davis says:

    Oh and by the way he threw 4 touchdowns in this game last year and they dominated the line of scrimmage and had 250 plus yards rushing. So maybe the O-Line and the defense need to improve before you blame the QB.

  17. Our (Ohio State) problem is coaching. Coaching that is not evolving with the game, Coaching that isn’t taking the skill sets of the players and designing plays and schemes to their strong points. Our problem is DBs that don’t turn and look for the ball. Our problem is getting a few good run plays in and then trying to force passes that are not there. There was zero creativity in that game plan. Zero! When you have receivers that are so fast they scorch coverage a damn HS quarterback could hit them. Hell I almost could. But we have none of that. They were covered like syrup on pancakes.
    We just got totally schooled by a 30 year old coach that out schemed Urban and all that tenured coaching staff. On defense it wasn’t hard because we’ve been doing the same plays for years.
    You want to blame JT go ahead. But we have a ton of talent on this team and it’s being stifled. Lincoln Riley came into the Shoe and smacked us down and stole our lunch. If he would have had our team to coach (roles reversed) he would have doubled that score.

  18. Jim Fritch says:

    Big deal.The (Arm chair QB’s) are out in force.Sooners are a great team,If the Bucks lose,then it’s good to lose early and to a top ranked team.Lots of time to regroup.Remember 2014 !!!
    EVERYONE WILL MOST LIKELY HAVE A LOSS ALSO.
    Seasons just getting started and better things will emerge from Columbus…..

  19. not a buckeye fan so i am impartial. SWhy all the blame to barrett? the sooner defensive line manhandled osu oline. point 2 you could be tom brady and if your receivers can not get open who cares? there was 0 i repeat 0 separation by the receivers for osu. there were about 4 times barrett had 4 or 5 seconds and he either had to throw it away or run because no one open, had same problem last year except for 1 receiver. it has been 2 years since osu has had anyone to catch the ball. the problem is an 11 man problem not one.

  20. boys3rsk says:

    I am a diehard Buckeyr fan. I have watched Barrett like Braxton Miller make Ohio State a one demential team for three years. Both are RUNNING backs playing quarterback. . Neither one could PASS the ball down fieldor accuracely. Barret is a good kid, but NOT a quarterback, only a running back like Miller. Burrow is the best palyer to replace Barrett. he has a great arm, can run, and throw accuracely, and throw on the run. Haskinds has a lot of potential as the backup. Meyer is an IDIOT, and he needs fired. Great recruiter, but not a game coach, who can make adjustments like Riley did as the game progressed. All out opponents KNOW Barrett can not beat them with his arm so they PACK in eight players to stop the run. Clemson did it, and so did Oklahoma. It will continue until Meyer WAKES up, which I don’t think he has the ability. That is why he needs fired. Sad but ture. Go Bucks.

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