|Jay LaPrete/Associated Press|
|Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett is in line to start Ohio State's season opener.|
There is an intense focus on J.T. Barrett as Ohio State is expecting Braxton Miller to miss the entire season after reinjuring his shoulder.
Barrett, a redshirt freshman, has been positioned as Ohio State's No. 2 quarterback, meaning he would be the guy given the monumental task of replacing Miller, the Buckeyes' most indispensable player.
Barrett (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) earned the backup job in the first two weeks of camp; he went into the summer as the No. 3 guy, but coaches said on Saturday that he had bypassed sophomore Cardale Jones (6-5, 250) for the No. 2 role.
"He gets the ball out quickly, very efficient, smooth release, very accurate, extremely cerebral," said offensive coordinator Tom Herman of Barrett on Ohio State's media day. "A very magnetic leader. I think the kids gravitate towards him. And we're going to work on strengthening his arm.
"But he makes up for (his lack of arm strength) in anticipation and accuracy and all that. You don't have to have a howitzer to be successful in college football. So I'm very pleased, very pleased, with his continued growth."
Barrett, from Wichita Falls, Texas, was a consensus national top-150 recruit; he was a standout two-way player in high school -- at quarterback and cornerback -- and some schools recruited him as a corner. One issue that clouded his recruitment a bit was that he suffered a torn ACL midway through his senior season in high school, and rehab from that injury continued into last season, when he redshirted with the Buckeyes.
He is more advanced as a runner than as a passer, which is fine in the Buckeyes' run-heavy version of the spread. While Barrett doesn't have elite speed, he does have good quickness and elusiveness, and -- as with Miller -- is said to run with surprising power.
Jones still could end up as the starter, too. Obviously, his size is impressive. He played at powerhouse Cleveland Glenville -- which has sent a number of players to Ohio State, among them Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. -- then went to prep school for a year. Jones has a cannon for an arm but threw only one pass in a relief role last season. He also rushed 17 times for 128 yards and a touchdown (against Florida A&M). He is not as elusive or as quick as Barrett, but he can run people over.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, of course, has succeeded with a power-running quarterback (Tim Tebow) operating his version of the spread. And, no, we certainly are not comparing Jones and Tebow; it's just that Meyer's spread can work with a quarterback who isn't quick or elusive (his Utah offense with Alex Smith was quite good, as well). Still, Barrett provides opportunities to make more plays on the edge, which gives him the advantage in the competition.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.