After decades of hearing coaches say they had to look at the film before they could give an opinion, I decided it was time to watch some film.
Specifically, it was time to watch film of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett from 2014.
You remember that J.T. Barrett? The one who rescued Ohio State after Braxton Miller’s season-ending injury, who was loved by the fans and finished in the top five in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Where did he go? And how does Ohio State get him back? There might be some answers in the films. At least to the where did he go part of the question.
Maybe the best game Barrett played in 2014 – maybe the best game he ever played at Ohio State – was OSU’s 49-37 win at Michigan State. So that is the one I located on the internet and watched.
The Spartans had scuttled Ohio State’s hopes of playing for a national championship by beating the Buckeyes in the 2013 Big Ten championship game. Sparty was favored in the 2014 game and came in ranked higher than OSU.
Whoever won would still have a chance to reach the College Football Playoff, which was in its first year in 2014. The loser would be out of the running. It was a huge match-up with huge implications.
And Barrett delivered a monster game. He was 16 of 26 for 300 yards passing and three touchdowns – two of them for long yardage, a 79-yard connection with Michael Thomas and a 44-yarder to Devin Smith.
Both of those came late in the first half and turned the game around after Michigan State had the upper hand most of the first two quarters. Barrett also ran for 108 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns.
So, what might you see that night from Barrett when you look at the film that you haven’t seen recently?
No. 1, he looked much more decisive. Ohio State’s offense played faster and he didn’t hold the ball, hold the ball and hold the ball some more while looking for an open receiver. He saw a receiver and threw the ball.
No. 2, his receivers got open, went after the ball and fought for it to make the catch. If Smith, Thomas and Jalin Marshall couldn’t elude defensive backs, they just out-ran them. And in the case of Smith, a 7-foot high jumper, they could just out-jump them.
Also, Jeff Heuerman was one of the better pass-catching tight ends in recent years at OSU.
No. 3, he was better protected. Even though it had four first-year starters, the 2014 offensive line, led by Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein, generally protected better than what he has had in front of him the last two seasons.
No. 4, he had Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield with him. With that kind of threat in the running game teams couldn’t drop as many defenders back in pass coverage as they can now.
No. 5, he appeared to be slightly faster than he is now after a broken leg and three seasons of wear and tear. This might be an optical illusion created by having more room to run because of better blocking and receivers who spread the field, but that’s the way it looked on film.
Obviously, Barrett and the passing game were major topics of conversation at OSU coach Urban Meyer’s weekly press conference on Monday.
“Right now, it’s not even a question,” Meyer said about playing another quarterback. “Any decisions about any personnel are strictly about who gives us the best opportunity to win. You think of a quarterback and it’s just about throwing, but it’s much more than that,” Meyer said.
It’s not a surprise Barrett is here to stay. But can the 2014 version of him on that film come back in 2017?
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.