Tim Tebow’s “promise” speech after Florida’s loss in 2008 to Mississippi — that Gator fans would never see him or the team play harder than in the rest of that season, which ended with a national title — still resonates with Urban Meyer.
He was the coach of the Gators then and he is in his sixth year at Ohio State now. Despite being 62-7 at OSU with a 2014 national title on his resume, he has another team and quarterback at a crossroads of sorts. After a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma a week ago, some fans were calling for a change from fourth-year starter J.T. Barrett as the Buckeyes prepared to play Army on Saturday.
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Barrett offered no Tebow-like “promise” speech after the loss, but Meyer is sticking by his starting quarterback because he’s long seen similar leadership qualities in Barrett that Tebow possesses.
“That’s a tall order to place on someone, but that’s the respect I have for J.T.,” Meyer said. “If you remember the (Tebow) speech, I know there will not be anybody work hard or push his team any harder than what Tim said that day, and he did.”
Intangibles are one of the reasons Barrett, a fourth-year starter and the first three-time captain at Ohio State, is still a cut above.
“Absolutely they're in the equation,” Meyer said. “That's called being a really good football player. Other things you have to continue to work on. Your question is how much does that play into it. A lot. And that's with every position.
In this scenario Meyer sees problems in all facets of a passing game that was exposed again by Oklahoma, much as Michigan and Clemson did at the end of last season: Receivers not getting open, not making catches or being aggressive toward the thrown ball; a line that sometimes had breakdowns in protection; and a quarterback who sometimes misfires.
It’s a brew that’s left the offense, now under the direction of first-year coordinator Kevin Wilson, looking more benign than aggressive in the loss to Oklahoma. For example, receiver Terry McLaurin let a well-thrown deep pass for a probable touchdown go between his hands and his head in the first half, a play that could have been a needed catalyst.
“I think as an offense we have to be more creative and take more chances, and you have to be educated about it,” Meyer said. "If we hit some of those plays and a couple guys go up and make some of those plays, and we hit them, it’s obviously a different ballgame. But that’s the way it is.”