J.T. Barrett

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Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett says he will be back with Buckeyes in 2017

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On the same day Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan announced his departure from the program in pursuit of the NFL Draft, Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett says he is not ready to leave just yet. Barrett announced with a very brief statement on his Instagram account he will return to play quarterback for Ohio State in the 2017 season, his final year of eligibility.

“I’m coming back for my senior year,” Barrett said in his Instagram post. “Much love to Buckeye Nation and thank God for the blessings.”

Barrett was named a recipient of the Chicago Tribune Silver Football in 2016, sharing the unofficial Big Ten MVP award with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Barrett was a First-Team All-Big Ten player in 2014 and 2016 and a third-team AP All-American in 2014 after stepping into the Ohio State offense for what would turn out to be a national championship season (although Cardale Jones replaced an injured Barrett for the postseason run). Barrett has also been named the Big Ten’s quarterback of the year twice, in 2014 and again this past fall.

Barrett’s legacy at Ohio State is already pretty solid, but coming back for one more season means he could further etch his name in the Ohio State history books. Barrett will start the 2017 season just 1,166 yards shy of the Ohio State career passing record and is 917 rushing yards away from cracking the top five rushing leaders, which is quite a feat given the history of Ohio State rushers. Barrett will also (extremely likely) be the first three-time captain in Buckeye history, and he will look to become the first Ohio State quarterback to beat Michigan four times.

There is some unfinished business for Barrett, who has yet to lead Ohio State to a Big Ten championship (he was injured the only time Ohio State has played for a Big Ten title since his arrival) and there is probably a sour taste in his mouth after how the 2016 season ended with a shutout loss in the College Football Playoff semifinal game in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson. With Barrett back on the field in 2017, Ohio State will have the most experienced quarterback in the conference looking to take the final steps in his progression to lead Ohio State in another chase for the Big Ten title.

With Barrett coming back, the debut for highly-rated incoming Class of 2017 quarterback Tate Martell will clearly be on hold for at least one season. Class of 2016 addition Dwayne Haskins will also have to wait a year to get a crack at the starting job as well.

Clemson using former QB Tajh Boyd in practice to emulate Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett

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Former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, a key figure in the rise of the Clemson program in recent years, was back at Clemson’s practice this week as the ACC champion Tigers prepare for a College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with Ohio State, but Boyd was not there merely as a spectator or for words of encouragement. Boyd was there to practice as a member of Clemson’s scout team, taking on the role of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.

The idea of using former players to help out on the practice field has been a little bit of a debating point recently. Last month, Alabama head coach Nick Saban battled back at criticism he faced for using former Alabama players Trent Richardson and Blake Sims on the scout team. The NCAA does allow for former players to participate in practices, so long as the practice time is limited and not announced publicly beforehand. This has been criticized by some, including Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.

For what it is worth, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was intrigued by the use of former players when word of Saban’s practice methods became public.

Who will be the favorite for the Heisman Trophy in 2017? How about Lamar Jackson?

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Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson will now have an opportunity to do something no quarterback has ever done. Jackson will attempt to become the first quarterback in the history of the Heisman Trophy to win the award a second time. And considering how weel his 2016 season started (despite sputtering in the end), the hype machine will be in full force in 2017 out of Louisville. History will not be on his side of course, as there has been just one two-time Heisman Trophy winner (Archie Griffin of Ohio State).

Recent quarterbacks who have come up short of winning a second Heisman Trophy have included Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel. Jackson should have some stiff competition to pose with the stiff-arm trophy in 2017, including at the quarterback position alone. For starters, 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield will be back at Oklahoma with a chance to pick up where he has left this season, and that will include a second crack against Ohio State (in Columbus).

Other quarterbacks that should be in the conversation will include USC’s Sam Darnold, Washington’s Jake Browning and perhaps UCLA’s Josh Rosen out of the Pac-12. Alabama’s Jalen Hurts will certainly garner some attention, as will Penn State’s Trace McSorley) and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett if he returns in 2017. And with Tom Herman the QB Whisperer taking over the show in Austin, look for a big year from Texas quarterback Shane Buechele to catch some eyes.

Running backs have lost their edge in the Heisman Trophy game over the last 15 years, but Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Derrius Guice of LSU and Kamryn Pettway of Auburn may be worth watching closely. Ohio State’s biggest playmaker, Kurtis Samuel, should be in the conversation as well. And for those who insist on throwing a defensive player in the mix, Houston’s Ed Olliver will be the name to watch, although a defensive player from a Group of Five program likely has as minimal a chance to win the Heisman Trophy as there exists. USC’s Adoree’ Jackson isn’t shy about starting his own campaign either.

But the fun part about the Heisman Trophy conversation every season is seeing which player pops up out of nowhere to take the college football world by storm. That will likely be the case in the month of September, but it is anyone’s guess who it may be. Or maybe Jackson will have what it takes to make history.

No. 5 Ohio State obliterates Maryland to keep Big Ten title hopes in sight

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J.T. Barrett passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more as No. 5 Ohio State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) easily picked up a blowout road win at Maryland (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten) on Saturday. The Buckeyes left College Park with a 62-3 victory to keep a shot at a Big Ten championship within reach. But at least Maryland had nice uniforms.

Ohio State put up 45 point sin the first half, which allowed the Buckeyes to put things on cruise control and get a few other players involved in the second half with a win easily taken care of. In addition to Barrett’s productive afternoon on the road, Mike Weber rushed for 93 yards and Curtis Samuel turned in a quality game with three total touchdowns and 112 total yards of offense. The Ohio State defense was locked in from start to finish. Maryland converted just one of 132 third down attempts for a first down and the Terps were held to fewer than 200 yards while the Buckeyes were racking up the offensive stats when they had the football.

Ohio State’s offense has really hit its stride the past two weeks, which should be comforting for fans after back-to-back struggles against Penn State and Northwestern. Maybe that served as a wake-up call for the Buckeyes, who now are playing like a true Big Ten and legitimate playoff contender. The defense has been there the entire time too.

Maryland lost starting quarterback Perry Hills to an injury in the first half. A shoulder injury brought an early end to his afternoon, as he did not return. Caleb Rowe filled in for a while, but eventually freshman Tyrell Pigrome got some playing time as well.

For Ohio State, the goal of playing for a Big Ten title remains in front of them, and for the moment they still control their own fate as long as Michigan avoids slipping up tonight against Iowa or next week. Ohio State maintains control of the Big Ten East if they win their remaining games and Michigan enters the regular season finale without a loss prior to arrival in Columbus. If Michigan should happen to lose at least once before getting to Ohio State, then Penn State could potentially stand in the way of the Buckeyes and Indianapolis. Ohio State wins in a three-way tiebreaker for the division but Penn State would win a head-to-head tiebreaker if the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions are tied for the Big Ten East lead at the end of the season.

Simply put, Ohio State fans are put in the somewhat awkward position of rooting for the Wolverines tonight against Iowa and next week against Indiana (Penn State has Rutgers next week).

Ohio State must also take care of business next week on the road at Michigan State. The Spartans finally put a win in Big Ten play on the board this afternoon with a 49-0 shutout of Rutgers. Michigan State clipped Ohio State last season in Columbus, but the Spartans are a far cry from where they were en route to a Big Ten title last fall.

Maryland will hit the road next week to take on Nebraska in Lincoln. It would appear Maryland’s bowl hopes will be on the line in the regular-season finale at home against Rutgers. Maryland needs just one win in order to become bowl eligible.

No. 2 Ohio State uses running game and defense to pull past Indiana

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J.T. Barrett rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown to make up for an underwhelming day throwing the football to help No. 2 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) pull away from Indiana (3-2, 101 Big Ten). The Buckeyes used a big second quarter to create some separation from the Hoosiers and the defense clamped down on Indiana in the second half of a 38-17 victory in The Horseshoe on Saturday afternoon.

Despite the comfortable margin of victory, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will have some things he can drill into his team in the coming week. Barrett completed just eight of his 20 pass attempts for 91 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Against Indiana, on this day, it was not enough to prevent Ohio State from winning a game. It is, however, something that may not be as easy to overcome elsewhere this season. Fortunately for Ohio State, when Barrett can’t get things going through the air, he can take care of business on the ground. Barrett rushed 25 times for 133 yards and a touchdown to lead the Buckeyes. Curtis Samuel added 82 yards and a score and Mike Weber led the team with two rushing touchdowns in addition to adding 73 yards to the rushing total.

Ohio State’s defense was where Ohio State had a distinct advantage against Indiana. The Hoosiers caused some stressful moments for Ohio State,  but Ohio State held their opponent to just 281 yards of total offense, with just 99 of those yards coming by way of the run on 40 rushing attempts. Indiana’s Devine Redding led his team with 78 rushing yards.

Ohio State will take to the road for the first time since taking care of Oklahoma in Week 3 next week when they head to Madison to take on Wisconsin. The Badgers will supposedly be rested up after suffering their first loss of the season at Michigan last weekend. Wisconsin was on a bye week this weekend. After a road game at Wisconsin, the Buckeyes travel to Penn State before returning home to take on Northwestern.

Indiana will be home next Saturday to host Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are 5-0 and will be coming in off a bye week.