The Lantern originally selected Braxton Miller as the No. 1 most important Buckeye before he suffered a season-ending injury on Aug. 18.
Now, just days away from the start of the 2014 football season, The Lantern’s countdown of the top 10 most important players on this year’s Ohio State roster has reached its final stage as we reveal our most important player for the 2014 Buckeyes.
No. 1: J.T. Barrett, redshirt-freshman quarterback
Anytime a Heisman Trophy candidate goes down to injury, the team’s backup instantly goes under the microscope.
That’s been true with J.T. Barrett.
The Wichita Falls, Texas, native was thrust into the spotlight when senior quarterback and two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Miller went down with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Just two weeks ago, Barrett was the third-string quarterback behind Miller and redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones. Then coach Urban Meyer announced he had gained a slight edge over Jones in fall camp.
Two days later, Barrett was OSU’s starting quarterback.
Barrett, who has yet to see playing time in an actual game since his senior year of high school when he tore his ACL, will be making his first start as a Buckeye in an NFL stadium.
As if that wasn’t pressure enough, the Buckeyes were picked by many as a favorite to participate in the first ever College Football Playoff before Miller’s injury. Now, some have gone as far as to bump the Buckeyes out of Big Ten title contention.
With all that, Barrett must be a manager of the OSU offense, while Miller was more of a playmaker who could keep plays alive when the pocket broke down.
His job in the Buckeye offense will be getting the ball to the many playmakers around him, something he has done well in practice, according to players and coaches who have even nicknamed Barrett “the Distributor.”
While the young quarterback has other young talent around him, he — along with the rest of the offense — will have to make up for a lot of lost yardage as the Buckeyes only return about 12 percent of its total offensive yards from last season.
Among the players Barrett is expected to distribute to are sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson, sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott and senior wide receiver Devin Smith.
Wilson leads all returning players from last season in all-purpose yards with 983, 523 of those yards coming on kickoff returns.
The only glimpse Buckeye fans have seen of Barrett in a Scarlet and Gray (well, technically black) uniform was in the 2014 OSU Spring Game, when Barrett completed 17 of his 33 pass attempts for 151 yards, including a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
Barrett, along with Jones, has also taken the majority of the practice snaps in spring and fall camp as Miller sat out because of soreness in his shoulder. Meyer said he’s attempted more than 300 competitive throws in camp.
Although he has been named the starter for week one, Barrett will have to perform in order to keep the job because Meyer did not rule out the possibility of playing Jones as well in the opener.
Barrett and the Buckeyes are scheduled to open their season Saturday against Navy at the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Kickoff is set for noon.