J.T. Barrett


Before taking the reins as Ohio State offensive coordinator this year, Kevin Wilson had an opinion of Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett.

“I think that’s the best quarterback in college football,” Wilson, then coach at Indiana, said last year after Barrett had led the Buckeyes over the Hoosiers. “I’m not saying it because he’s in our league. I’m not a homer.

“When you watch that kid play … his unselfishness … he went through a lot. He was a premier player in the country two years ago when he got injured. He’s one of the best players, he’s one of the best teammates. I’m not in their locker room, (but) I’m sure he’s a phenomenal leader.”

Now Wilson is in the Ohio State locker room, poised to call the plays against his former school Thursday night in the 2017 opener at Indiana.

If anything, his opinion of Barrett has been enhanced by getting to know him better since January. He has been impressed with the fifth-year senior’s coachability, especially with the way he has worked with new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.

It helped that Barrett understood that the way he and the offense finished the 2016 season — with the struggles in the passing game against Michigan State, Michigan and a shutout loss to Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal — was far from good enough.

“Getting back the timing in the offense and in the passing game” were major goals in preseason camp, Barrett said, adding that the Buckeyes also worked on throwing to contested receivers while still giving them a chance to make a play.

“On any given play, if a guy is hanging all over (the receiver), that guy isn’t getting any more open,” he said. In addition, Barrett continued, holding the ball while waiting for someone to break wide open “hurts the offensive line.”

Wilson has watched Barrett put those lessons to work in practice, and seen the way it has perked up the offense.

“He has led our offense, but he has worked as hard as anyone,” Wilson said. “He has been a very impressive player the way he practices.”

But big question going into the Indiana game is, will Barrett and the offense play the way they have practiced?