Top 5 Storylines for the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes: J.T. Barrett has the Stage Set to be a Heisman Contender

There are several question marks surrounding the 2016 Ohio State Buckeye football team.  One thing is certain: J.T. Barrett is the man at quarterback.  The redshirt junior enters the season as not only a captain on the team and leader on the field, but as a viable candidate to earn a Heisman Trophy when it’s all said and done in December.

 

Let’s start by taking a look at J.T.’s 2015 season:

 

Entered the year in a QB battle.

 

With the emergence of Cardale Jones during Ohio State’s improbable championship run in 2014-15, J.T. Barrett found himself in a competition to be the team’s quarterback heading into the 2015 season.  Cradle had the strong arm and was a proven winner that was gaining the attention of NFL scouts while J.T. was the dual-threat option who was so successful in the regular season the year before.  There was also Braxton Miller, who kept his name in the ring to be the starting QB until June when he announced he would focus on being a receiver due to his shoulder not being 100% healthy.  Head coach Urban Meyer remained noncommittal throughout fall camp on the starting QB battle and eventually named Jones and Barrett “co-starters” days before the first game of the season at Virginia Tech.  Despite them both appearing atop the depth chart at QB, Cardale Jones took the first snap of the season and got the bulk of the playing time early on.

 

Was recovering from an injury.

 

In addition to being mired in a QB battle, J.T. Barrett spent much of the offseason last year recovering from a nasty ankle injury suffered late in the 2014 season.   After undergoing surgery in November he was slightly limited during spring practice.  Even though he could throw just fine, it was Cardale Jones who got most of the reps under center and therefore was able to build up a little more of a chemistry with the receivers.

 

Made a mid-season return.

 

The postseason success of Cardale Jones and the rehab of J.T. Barrett’s surgically repaired ankle seemingly stacked the deck against J.T. early in the season.

 

After not getting much of an opportunity the first seven weeks, J.T. Barrett took over in Week 8 and didn’t look back.

 

Below are his per-game averages during the 2014 season and as a starter last year:

 

2014: 236.2 passing yards per game, 78.2 rushing yards per game, 34/10 TD/INT

2015: 148.6 passing yards per game, 90.8 rushing yards per game, 7/2 TD/INT

 

The passing yardage is a little skewed by a 46-yard game in a loss against Michigan State, but the other numbers are in-line or better with the year before.  Even with the dud against Mich St., you’re looking at a 2000-yard passing, 1000-yard rushing performance over the course of a full season.

 

Looking at the last five Heisman-winning quarterbacks, here are their (approximate) lines for passing and rushing yardage:

 

2010: Cam Newton, 2800 passing, 1500 rushing

2011: Robert Griffin III, 4300 passing, 700 rushing

2012: Johnny Manziel, 3700 passing, 1400 rushing

2013: Jameis Winston, 4000 passing, 200 rushing

2014: Marcus Mariota, 4500 passing, 800 rushing

 

Those are some daunting numbers.  However, there’s one clear-cut reason why Barrett may be able to elevate his game: the offense will be much more dependent on him.

 

In both 2014 and 2015, J.T. handed the ball off to running back Ezekiel Elliot.  In 2014, Elliot accounted for roughly 28% of the total offense from scrimmage.  In 2015, Elliot upped that percentage to 36%.  Ohio State will certainly have talented options to replace Zeke at RB, but the offense as a whole will likely be much more dependent on J.T. Barrett at quarterback.  That along with the undisputed opportunity to be the primary signal caller at 100% health, and you have all the makings of a Heisman contender.

 

We all know winning never hurt anyone’s case to win the Heisman Trophy.  That may have been the case in 2014, when Barrett led the Buckeyes to a 11-1 record in the regular season and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.  While there’re obviously many moving parts on any football team and fluky things happen on a weekly basis, J.T. Barrett appears primed and ready to step up this season and get an invite to New York City in December.

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