Barrett brings grit to QB

Early enrollee recovers from ACL tear while bringing leadership qualities

Updated: January 29, 2013, 6:21 PM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- J.T. Barrett has been in this situation before.

The details certainly aren't identical, though the same injured knee that wrecked his senior season at Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, will largely keep him on the sideline during spring practice after enrolling early at Ohio State.

[+] EnlargeJ.T. Barrett
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comJ.T. Barrett won't be able to run in the offseason program, but Urban Meyer expects him to throw.
But whether Barrett is leading the offense at quarterback or not playing at all, he has proved before that he can make an impact either way. And even with a Heisman Trophy candidate and a veteran backup returning at the position, the Buckeyes are already hoping for some similar results to those Rider coach Jim Garfield has seen in person plenty of times.

"His leadership skills are immeasurable," Garfield said. "He was our captain. He was our emotional leader. He's a leader by his mouth and his actions. With his leadership ability and his sacrifice for team, that's what I believe helped us get where we were at.

"We never missed a beat when he got hurt, not one beat, and I believe he's the reason we got into the semifinals -- and that's a crazy thought. Think about that. If we have him, we probably win the state championship."

The Raiders ultimately came up short with the four-star, dual-threat quarterback limited to doing work on the sideline after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in October, an injury that ended his season and will delay some of the physical work he can do with the Buckeyes during the offseason program and spring camp.

But finding other ways to contribute isn't anything new for Barrett at this point. While Ohio State won't be looking for a true freshman to duplicate the emotional boost he provided for Rider late in the year or the fiery pregame speeches that Garfield can still replay in his mind, Barrett's new coach quickly identified one way in which he might boost a group led by star junior Braxton Miller and senior Kenny Guiton.

"I'm hoping he brings a little something that our quarterback position can use, and that's a grinder, a guy that's just nonstop," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "You know, the [guys like former Utah quarterback] Alex Smith -- they wake up in the morning and they're a quarterback all day long. They go to sleep and the next day they wake up again and they're a quarterback all day long.

"He's a talented guy. He had ACL surgery, so he'll be limited as far as contact, but from everything I'm hearing he'll be able to throw and do the offseason program. Not the running part of it, but I'm not worried about him doing that part of it."

Completely healthy or not, the Buckeyes don't exactly have a pressing need for Barrett to deliver physically as they try to build on last year's undefeated season, with their postseason sanctions now in the rearview mirror.

Miller is on the short list of most dangerous threats taking snaps in the country, and he could be in line for an even bigger season with another year to tune his mechanics and absorb Meyer's spread offense with eight other starters returning around him. Guiton's experience and ability to seamlessly move into the lineup whenever needed provides another layer of security that could allow the Buckeyes to take it slow with Barrett.

Based on the way he soaked up coaching as a starting sophomore at Rider and the way he sped through the learning curve in identifying fronts and coverages, he might not like waiting. But he has already demonstrated in his young career that he'll make do with whatever role he has to take.

"He's a young man that's driven by success," Garfield said. "Anything he does, he wants to be successful at -- he showed that here at Rider and will definitely show that up there at Ohio State.

"I think J.T. is going to flourish up there. He's going to bring a different aspect to the game. Not just with his physical abilities, but with his leadership skills and the way he handles tough situations."

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter