J.T. Barrett on Ohio State’s endless deep-ball debate: ‘Shocked that we keep on talking about it’

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Percentages. Accuracy. Practice reps.

All the questions included some reference to J.T. Barrett’s ability to throw the deep ball, and finally the Ohio State quarterback decided it was time for some answers that cut straight to the point.

Does he want to complete every pass he throws? Of course.

Is that the standard of success when the Buckeyes try to stretch the field? Not even close.

Why hasn’t the offense dialed up more vertical routes over the last couple years in games? Because it wasn’t working in practice.

Barrett is aware of the endless discussions about his arm strength. The questions about Ohio State’s ability to push the football down the field. Even the doubts about the recent improvements given the level of competition over the last few weeks.

After perhaps hearing about them all one too many times, the senior finally decided to both turn the tables and weigh in with his own perspective.

“I am really just shocked that we keep on talking about it,” Barrett said after practice Tuesday. “How many did we complete the other day [at Rutgers]? Three or four? So, it’s like, ‘What’s up?’ Like, I’m asking y’all.

“I hear that [doubt about the opponents]. I’m just a little confused why we keep on talking about it. I mean, we’re going to take our shots. I guess to help everybody out, in the past we didn’t complete it in practice. Like, in practice it was awful. So in the game, we didn’t call it because it was awful in practice. We don’t do things that don’t work in practice in a game. That doesn’t make any sense.”

It’s starting to work a little more for the Buckeyes to include those bombs in the game plan, though, and that’s showing up in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center during the week on the practice field.

Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ryan Day-J.T. Barrett
Ohio State quarterbacks coach Ryan Day is working with a goal of connecting on 50 percent of deep balls. (Land of 10 file photo)

There are plenty of reasons why the passing attack wasn’t clicking in the past, and Barrett has consistently taken his share of the blame for that. He wasn’t alone, though, with pass protection from the offensive line, inconsistencies at wide receiver and play-calling from the coaching staff all being part of the problem.

“I mean, it’s just about being on the same page at all times,” wide receiver Johnnie Dixon said. “I don’t know if J.T. has lacked any confidence.

“Seeing that success now, we have to just improve on it and make them count. I know we can do it again — we hit them all the time. We hit them in practice, now it’s just getting it out there and letting everybody else see it.”

It’s not always going to connect when the pressure is on and everybody is watching. But Ohio State isn’t expecting perfection from Barrett anyway.

He may want every attempt to end in a completion, but the official goal in the meeting room is 50 percent on deep shots — and the reality is that the Buckeyes would take even less than that.

“More realistically, it’s probably closer to 40 percent,” quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said. “If we’re hitting on 50 percent, we’re having a heck of a day.

“It’s not something that just happens overnight. It takes time, and it’s something obviously that it’s been a major emphasis for us this offseason and the preseason and during the first half of the year. … When things don’t go well, everyone wants to know from J.T. why it didn’t go well. Like Coach [Urban Meyer] has said, it’s everybody, it’s everybody involved with it. And when it does go well, it’s everybody who should get the credit. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re making progress.”

That has been clear over the last few weeks, though some measure of success has been assumed even before the kickoffs against Army, UNLV and Rutgers. Those three teams were completely overmatched on paper, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t encouraging signs of improvement since the demoralizing loss last month to Oklahoma.

Barrett has hooked up a couple times with Binjimen Victor on impressive throws down the field, including a touchdown toss at Rutgers that required him to anticipate a spot while bracing for a hit in the pocket. He also had a perfectly-delivered ball to Johnnie Dixon called back on a questionable pass interference penalty.

Add those in with a couple drops earlier in the season by Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin, and Ohio State would be right there knocking on its goal for those field-stretching plays.

Ohio State-J.T. Barrett-Parris Campbell
J.T. Barrett can do everything right — and still not throw a touchdown.

“We’re not going to complete every one,” Barrett said. “In practice we don’t complete every one. With that, I guess that’s the whole story of what was happening the past few years when there was the conversation about the deep ball.

“There has been success at it. I mean, as far as, ‘Is it going to work against Penn State?’ I have all the confidence in the world that we’re going to make plays when it’s time for that. But we’re not worried about Penn State, we’re talking about Maryland. Focus on Maryland, make those plays against Maryland. They play man [coverage], there are opportunities for that. So, let’s slow our roll.”

Deep passes, of course, might speed up that roll again for the Ohio State offense.

Just be prepared for some deep thoughts from Barrett as well the next time the conversation focuses on them.

The post J.T. Barrett on Ohio State’s endless deep-ball debate: ‘Shocked that we keep on talking about it’ appeared first on Land of 10.

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