When Urban Meyer said his quarterback had a sprained MCL, some Ohio State fans might have cringed — for good reason.
It’s the second straight season the third-year OSU coach has seen his starting quarterback suffer that injury, after all. But unlike then-junior Braxton Miller — who missed two games and all but the opening drive of another with the same injury in 2013 — redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett is expected to play this weekend after hurting his knee on Saturday against Penn State.
On Monday, Meyer stressed that Barrett would play in the Buckeyes’ Saturday matchup with Illinois, and the quarterback reiterated the same point — barring unforeseen circumstances — on Wednesday.
“It would have to be something drastic happen between now and Saturday at 8 o’clock,” Barrett said. “But I plan on playing Saturday.”
During the Big Ten teleconference on Tuesday, Meyer said he expected Barrett to be “full-go” at practice on Wednesday, but that didn’t quite end up being the case.
“He went — I wouldn’t say quite full — be he’ll be full tomorrow, they’re telling us,” Meyer said after Wednesday’s practice. “He did good, real good.”
Barrett said practice went “fine” for him, and added he did most of the things he would normally do at practice, but not everything.
“I was limited at first, but then today got out there and did team stuff at the end, which was good,” he said.
“Dropping back, jogging a little bit, just normal things.”
Junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker agreed that Barrett seemed “fine” in practice, and said the quarterback was trying to make sure he takes care of his knee.
“Obviously he is trying to be careful with his knee, you don’t want to tweak it anymore,” Decker said Wednesday. “Hope to have him as healthy as possible coming back for the game, but he has looked fine to me.”
While he’s been limited in practice since the injury, Barrett didn’t miss any significant time during the Buckeyes’ double-overtime win against the Nittany Lions. In fact, he ran for 32 yards during the extra periods and scored both of OSU’s overtime touchdowns on the ground.
On the other hand, Miller originally hurt his knee during the Buckeyes’ opening drive in their second game of the 2013 season against San Diego State University, and didn’t return to the field until week five against Wisconsin.
Despite the stark contrast in the amount of time missed, Meyer said Barrett’s injury is “very similar” to the one Miller suffered just over a year earlier. But he was sure to stick to his expertise when addressing why Barrett could play when Miller could not.
“I’m not a doctor,” Meyer said. “(Barrett’s injury is) probably not as severe.”
Meyer added that MCL sprains are fairly common and don’t require surgery, and went on to say some players simply react differently to injuries.
“Everybody is built differently, I guess, but once again, I’m not a doctor,” he said.
As he decided to leave speculation out of the picture and trust the medical experts when it comes to the differences between Miller’s injury and Barrett’s, Meyer said he listened to his medical staff after the initial injury as well.
“At halftime, they said he got an MCL sprain,” Meyer said. “I said, ‘how bad?’ And they said, ‘well, we’ll see how it goes.’”
Apart from one drive when redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones, redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall and sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson all took snaps, Barrett didn’t miss any game time after spraining his knee.
Barrett — who tore his right ACL in the last game he played at Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, before spraining his left MCL against the Nittany Lions — said he’d never played through a similar injury in the past. He added he wouldn’t have stepped back on the field if he wasn’t fully ready to play.
“I’ve actually really never played with an injury to this degree,” he said. “But I knew that I could take a drop, I could run, so it was just one of those things like, ‘Hey man, if you play, you play.’ It’s not like going in there half stepping, because if so, the team could use a Cardale Jones that could go full-go.”
Even after playing through it on Saturday, Decker said Barrett is likely still hurting in practice this week.
“I’m sure he has got some pain but he played the whole second half with it, so I have no doubts that he will be back and be ready,” he said.
Barring “something drastic,” Barrett is set to lead the Buckeyes against the Fighting Illini on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.