Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed a 20-yard pass to a first-grade student on Saturday at Ohio State’s Student Appreciation Day practice. Barrett raised his arms and ran down the field to celebrate with the kid, Dominic Ortega, of Columbus.
It won’t be much different for Barrett and the Buckeyes at the spring game April 16 at Ohio Stadium or next fall. His receiving corps is young and inexperienced. Ohio State lost its top four targets in the passing game: wide receivers Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall, running back Ezekiel Elliott and hybrid back Braxton Miller.
Some players expected to play prominent roles in the passing game this fall haven’t played this spring because of injuries — Noah Brown, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel — so this spring has been about Barrett working with young receivers Austin Mack, Torrance Gibson, James Clark, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon.
“The challenge is probably getting young guys the reps they need, quality reps,” Barrett said Thursday after the 10th of 14 practices leading up to the spring game. “They need to understand how much practice means, the young guys who haven’t played a lot. Practice is what we do. You’ve got to make plays in practice in order to make plays on Saturday. That’s something we preach to the young guys. Practice is who we are. We take practice very seriously here.”
The Buckeyes are on the verge of accomplishing what they set out to do this spring, said Barrett, who threw for 992 yards and 11 touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore in 2015 and 2,384 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2014.
“We’ve still got some good practices coming up,” he said. “(The spring game is) going to prove to us who’s going to play for us.”
The Buckeyes have worked to create a faster tempo in the offense this spring, and Barrett said the players have bought into it.
“We’re not getting too crazy as far as plays,” Barrett said. “As the season comes, we can definitely get creative. We play fast. It’s definitely an emphasis.”
Quarterbacks coach Tim Beck said Barrett has strong fundamentals. He has worked with Barrett on improving small areas of his game, such as not creeping up to the line of scrimmage before he throws a pass.
“The biggest thing is to get him to play fast, play consistent,” Beck said, “kind of how he did toward the end of last year and in 2014. I like what I’ve seen so far.”