Barrett solidifies himself as starter … Back-ups Burrow and Haskins have good days … Receiver corps steps up in big way
Columbus – Ohio State fans looking for evidence of improvement in the passing game had to be encouraged by what they saw in the spring game Saturday.
Those looking for validation on why J.T. Barrett should be replaced as the starter by one of the talented back-ups likely didn’t find it in the Scarlet’s 44-31 win over the Gray.
Barrett played only three possessions and looked sharp — especially on the opening drive when he completed five of six passes on the way to a touchdown. There was no live tackling for most of the first half, which made it hard to evaluate the running backs, but we could still get a reading on the QBs and how well they delivered the ball, and Barrett displayed plenty of accuracy.
Yes, he air-mailed one receiver on a sideline throw, which was a puzzler. And he had an interception, which came when one of his linemen was pushed into him as he threw.
But otherwise, he was on consistently on target. He finished 8-for-12 for 71 yards and one TD. He showed again that he can complete balls in tight windows. That loony segment of Buckeye-ville that thinks he no longer can be effective won’t find support from coach Urban Meyer, who said afterward that he thought Barrett looked good, just as he has all spring.
I did like what I saw, though, from Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins. The two squads rolled up 654 passing yards, which shows the QB position is in good hands for the foreseeable future.
Burrow went 14-for-22 for 262 yards and three scores. Haskins was 17-for-26 for 293 yards and three TDs.
Burrow has a certain presence in the pocket, that intangible you want in a QB. The sophomore also throws a nice ball. One of his TDs was an underthrown pass, but he uncorked a heat-seeking missile on his second TD to Johnnie Dixon.
I also like Burrow’s height at the position. You can count on the undersized Barrett having a pass or two knocked down at the line each game. That’s less likely to happen with the 6-3 Burrow.
Meyer has been raving about the natural throwing motion of Haskins, and the redshirt-freshman-to-be showed why. Another lanky QB, he has some zip on his passes. He looks like a pro with the way the ball comes out of his hand so effortlessly. The only concern I have is whether he’s nimble enough to execute the zone-read running game, a staple of Meyer’s offense.
Barrett is a master at that. What hurt him at the end of last year against Michigan and Clemson was that neither opponent had to respect the passing game. But that appears destined to change.
The Buckeyes have an ample amount of receivers with the total package of size, speed and hands. They still have to prove they can do it when it counts, although playing as well as they did before 80,000 fans in Ohio Stadium is a positive sign.
Dixon caught six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns, including a 44-yarder. Terry McLaurin had four catches for 80 yards and a pair of TDs, including a 30-yarder.
Hybrid back Parris Campbell had five catches for 46 yards … and none of his usual drops! Stars and smiley faces for him.
The real position battle for the Buckeyes this preseason is going to be at running back. I thought Mike Weber had a nice year as a freshman, rushing for 1,096 yards with a 6.0 average. But “nice” isn’t the standard for a program of Ohio State’s stature.
I love what I saw out of sophomore DeMario McCall. He’s a home-run threat every carry. He reportedly had ball-security issues in practice last season, which is why we didn’t see more of him. But assuming he’s cleaned that up, I’d at least let him alternate with Weber, who probably is better at getting tough yardage.
McCall had 83 yards on six carries, a pretty hefty output. Weber had 13 yards on five totes and freshman J.K. Dobbins 16 on three.
As long as the offensive line gets straightened out (file that in the yet-to-determined folder), the Buckeyes should be a handful even for the best defenses they face.
New coordinator Kevin Wilson has been an offensive mastermind everywhere he’s been, and he’s never had such an abundance of skill at his fingertips.
Just like he did in giving the defense a much-needed overhaul in 2014 with the hiring of Chris Ash, Meyer seems to have done the same with Wilson. Even while going 12-1 in 2015, the Buckeyes underachieved when you think about what they had on that roster: 14 players who made NFL teams the next year, including the league’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott, a 1,000-yard receiver in Michael Thomas and the defensive rookie of the year in Joey Bosa.
That’s why 2017 looks so promising. All the Buckeyes have to do to contend for a national title is just play up to their potential.