On Monday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer labeled quarterback J.T. Barrett as “probable” for Saturday’s Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. But just in case, Meyer and everyone else on the team knows redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins Jr. is up to the task.
Barrett went out late in the third quarter at Michigan on Saturday with an injured right knee, which was first aggravated just after kickoff when someone bumped into him in the tight quarters of the bench area in Michigan Stadium.
Haskins entered with the Buckeyes trailing 20-14, hit a key third-down pass to Austin Mack, scrambled for a big gain and went on to lead the Buckeyes to 17 unanswered points and the sixth straight win over the Wolverines.
Now the Buckeyes are preparing to play unbeaten Wisconsin for the Big Ten title with Barrett banged up and a backup QB in the wings, just like when Barrett was injured against Michigan in 2014 and Cardale Jones had to take over.
“It’s weirdly similar to back when won the national championship,” said sophomore defensive end Nick Bosa, whose brother Joey was a member of that ’14 team. This time “Unfortunately J.T. went down, and Dwayne came in and he looked pretty good.
“He didn’t curl up in a ball. He balled, and it was fun to watch.”
Since then, Meyer said Barrett has responded well to treatment on his right knee, which has a meniscus (cartilage) problem that, when torqued a certain way, causes the knee to lock up.
“He's doing a nice job with all the rehab,” Meyer said.
But it has put a new spin on practice this week. Haskins is going to be in the mix with the first team much more, Meyer said, and one reason is the coaches want to limit the jeopardy for Barrett. Another is the team knows the backup quarterback is capable.
“When he was rewarded (Sunday) with a grade of champion” for his first significant action, and it coming in The Game, “I could see it in the room that there's a lot of confidence in him,” Meyer said.
The evaluation of Barrett will continue through the week, especially in terms of his mobility, which is a major part of his game.
“It's too early to tell” whether it will be impaired, Meyer said. “That's what this week's for. But those are all things we've taken into consideration.”
Meyer said on Saturday at Michigan he wants to learn the identity of what he’s been told was a photographer who bumped into Barrett. While he reiterated that Monday — “I trust that all the right people will look into it” — he seemed more interested in mandating there be less congestion in the bench area before and during a game no matter the venue.
“Sidelines have gotten — it's too much now,” Meyer said. “And I know I can speak on behalf of our sideline … from this point forward there will be no human being near our sideline that's not” part of the official OSU party.
Big Ten honor
Junior defensive end Sam Hubbard was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week Monday based on his performance against Michigan. He was in on five tackles, including a career-high 2½ sacks, and he forced a fumble.
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Redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins Jr. played superbly in relief of Barrett, leading the Buckeyes to scoring the game’s final 17 points.
Ohio State (10-2) needs a victory — and probably a convincing one — to earn its way into the College Football Playoff. Wisconsin (12-0) is the only undefeated team among the power-five conferences.
>>Video: Meyer addresses Barrett's knee, sidelines
Meyer also addressed the situation involving Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and Tennessee. Schiano was on the verge of being hired as the Volunteers head coach when a groundswell of opposition among the Tennessee fan base scuttled it.
“He’s an elite person, an elite father, elite husband and football coach,” Meyer said. “I stand by my football coach.”