A closer look at Ohio State’s freshman starting quarterbacks

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Braxton Miller on emotional night

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The 2021 Ohio State football season is shaping up to be the fifth with a freshman starting quarterback for the Buckeyes.

Here is a closer look at the first four:

Art Schlichter, 1978

  • 1981 Big Ten MVP
  • All-American in ’79
  • 2-time All-Big Ten
  • First round NFL Draft pick
  • 4-year starter
  • 2-2 against Michigan

A highly-regarded prospect from Washington Court House Miami Trace, Schlichter supplanted senior Rod Gerald, who moved to receiver. Schlichter completed 87 of 175 passes for 1,250 yards with four touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He also ran for 590 yards and 13 touchdowns in a 7-4-1 season that began and ended in disaster.

Schlichter threw five interceptions in his debut, a 19-0 loss to Penn State, and his last pass of the season was intercepted, too. The latter ultimately ended the career of coach Woody Hayes when Hayes threw a punch at Clemson defender Charlie Bauman in the waning seconds of the Gator Bowl.

He ultimately went 36-11-1 as a starter and set nearly every passing record at Ohio State, but off-field issues derailed his pro career and eventually landed him in prison.

Art Schlichter, shown during his glory days after his Ohio State team beat Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1979.
Art Schlichter, shown during his glory days after his Ohio State team beat Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1979.

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Terrelle Pryor, 2008

  • Big Ten Freshman of the Year
  • Rose Bowl MVP
  • Sugar Bowl MVP
  • Third-round NFL Draft pick (supplemental)
  • 3-year starter
  • 3-0 against Michigan

Thirty years after Schlichter made his debut, Pryor arrived in Columbus as the nation’s No. 1 prospect.

The Jeannette, Pa., product started the season backing up Todd Boeckman but took over as the starter in Week 4. He threw four touchdown passes in a 28-10 win over Troy and led the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as a starter.

Pryor completed 100 of 165 passes for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns. He threw fewer interceptions (four) on the season than Schlichter did in his debut and added 631 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

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Pryor was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, the Buckeyes beat a very poor Michigan team 42-7 and shard the Big Ten title with Penn State.

He started for two more seasons and won two more Big Ten championships. Although he never made the All-Big Ten first team, he was a finalist for the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as a senior.

Pryor went 31-4 as a starter and gained 8,341 yards of total offense (fourth in Ohio State history), but the majority of his numbers have been vacated after he broke NCAA rules regarding extra benefits.

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 05:  Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes congratulates his quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 after the Buckeyes added another touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen at Ohio Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Navy 31-27. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes congratulates his quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 after the Buckeyes added another touchdown against the Navy Midshipmen at Ohio Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Navy 31-27. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Credit: Jamie Sabau

Credit: Jamie Sabau

Braxton Miller, 2011

Big Ten Freshman of the Year

2-time Big Ten MVP

2-time Big Ten offensive player and quarterback of the year

2-time All-Big Ten

Big Ten-record seven individual awards

3-year starter at QB

1-year starter at WR

2-1 against Michigan as starting QB

Three years after Pryor’s arrival, another five-star recruit took the helm after coming off the bench to start the season.

A Springfield native who starred at Wayne High School, Miller also got his first start in the fourth game of the season. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for 83 yards as the Buckeyes beat Colorado 37-17.

Miller was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after he threw for 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 715 yards and seven more touchdowns.

He went 26-8 as a starting quarterback and is sixth in Ohio State history with 3,314 yards rushing and third in total offense (8,609 yards).

Ohio State star Braxton Miller starred at Wayne High School after growing up in Springfield. (PHIL LONG/OHIO PRESS PHOTO SYSTEM)
Ohio State star Braxton Miller starred at Wayne High School after growing up in Springfield. (PHIL LONG/OHIO PRESS PHOTO SYSTEM)

J.T. Barrett, 2014

  • Big Ten Freshman of the Year
  • 2016 Big Ten MVP
  • 3-time Big Ten Quarterback of the Year
  • 3-time All-Big Ten
  • 3.5-year starter
  • 4–0 against Michigan

J.T. Barrett ascended to the starting role after Miller re-injured his throwing shoulder in the preseason, and the Texas native turned in one of the best seasons for any Buckeye quarterback of any age up to that point.

Barrett completed 203 of 314 passes for 2,834 yards with 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 938 yards and 11 touchdowns while leading Ohio State to an 11-1 regular season record.

When Barrett’s season was cut short by a broken leg in a 42-28 win over Michigan, Cardale Jones replaced him as the starting quarterback and helped the Buckeyes to a stunning 3-0 postseason run that included wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.

Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett celebrates a touchdown against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. David Jablonski/Staff
Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett celebrates a touchdown against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. David Jablonski/Staff

Barrett eventually reclaimed the starting job the following season and held it for two more after that.

Barrett went 38-6 as a starter to set the school record for starting QB wins. He set the Big Ten career record for total offense(12,697), TD passes (104) and TDs responsible for (147) along with Ohio State records for career completion percentage (63.5), touchdown passes (104), passing yards (9,434) and quarterback rushing yards (3,263).

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