Quantifying Quarterbacks: JT Barrett’s Safe Play Style Got the Best of Him

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State

Saturday may have marked the end of Ohio State’s playoff hopes. They will have a shot at retribution when they play Michigan near the end of the season, but this week’s upset loss to Penn State was detrimental. After a tight game versus Wisconsin last week, Ohio State already looked to be in hot water. Now the pot is boiling over.

By: Derrik Klassen

Ohio State misses Cardale Jones. Say what you will about his recklessness or NFL skill set, but the Buckeyes never lost when Jones started and played the entire game. The same can not be said for JT Barrett. Barrett, while he did not throw an interception yesterday, played a big part in Ohio State’s lackluster offensive performance. He didn’t generate the explosive plays that Ohio State needed him to.


  • ADJ = Adjustment from receiver
  • DE = Drop w/ effort or defended pass
  • DB = Dropped blatantly
  • TD = Touchdown
  • INT = Interception
25+ 0/1 (1 DE) 0/1 0/1
16-20 1/2 0/1 (1 DE) 1/1 1/1 (1 TD)
11-15 1/1 1/1 1/1 0/1 (1 DE)
6-10 1/1 2/4 (1 ADJ, 1 DB) 4/5
1-5 1/3 (1 DB, 1 DE) 2/3
0 3/3 1/1 2/3 (1 DB) 4/4
Throwaways: 2 Left Outside Left Middle Right Middle Right Outside

Total: 26/41 (63.41%) *Does not include ‘jet’ or ‘shovel’ passes*

More than a quarter of Barrett’s attempts were passes behind the line of scrimmage. On one hand, that makes a lot of sense with running backs like Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber. Those two are one of the best one-two combos in the country and it should be a priority to get them the ball. It was often the timing of those passes that was the issue. On medium-to-long third downs or when Ohio State was driving and needed to get aggressive, the offense called for these short throws. In some cases, it was Barrett deliberately skipping past deeper options for the quick pass. There was a feeling of conservatism to the offense; a feeling that an offense of that caliber should not be emitting.

To Barrett’s credit, he was excellent when throwing to the intermediate area of the field. Barrett completed six out of nine passes in the 11-20 yard range, one of which passes was Barrett’s lone touchdown pass. Barrett threw well in the short area, too. Seldom did Barrett miss on throws within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. Barrett never hit the homerun ball, though.

Barrett only threw beyond 20 yards three times on 41 eligible attempts versus Penn State. None of those passes were completed. One of them was thrown well down the left sideline, but the coverage was flawless and Barrett’s intended receiver could not come down with the ball. That said, the concern is less about how well Barrett threw down the field, but how often. Three of 41 attempts comes out to just 7%. A quarterback doesn’t need to be firing down the field on every attempt, but there has to be a certain level of aggression from the quarterback in big games. Someone has to make big plays and that often starts with the quarterback.

Pass Rush Breakdown:

  • 3 Man Rush: 2 Times, 1 Pressure – 2/2
  • 4 Man Rush: 21 Times, 6 Pressures – 14/21 (3 DB, 2 DE, 1 Throwaway)
  • 5 Man Rush: 17 Times, 7 Pressures – 10/17 (1 ADJ, 2 DE, 1 TD, 1 Throwaway)
  • 6 Man Rush: 1 Time, 1 Pressure – 0/1

Passing When Pressured: 7/15 (3 DE, 2 Throwaways)

There’s nothing out of the ordinary about Barrett’s numbers versus different pass rush counts. Against three and fourth rusher counts, Barrett was hyper efficient. He got the ball out quickly and accurately. His completion percentage dipped against larger rush counts, but that is the norm. The drop off that Barrett experienced is not any worse than most other quarterbacks show in a given one-game sample.

Barrett’s play against pressure was nothing special, but it was solid. He displayed great poise in the midst of chaos, often being forced to move off of his spot. Barrett does an excellent job of subtly moving around in the pocket to create extra time and space for himself. As anecdoted by his two throwaways, Barrett steered clear of trouble when under pressure. He didn’t force throws that he didn’t need to and kept the ball safe.

Situational Passing:

  • Play Action: 7/11 (1 DB, 1 TD)
  • Rollout: 0/1 (1 Throwaway)
  • 3rd/4th Down: 10/13 (1 ADJ, 2 DE)
  • Red Zone: 1/6 (1 DB, 1 Throwaway)

Barrett’s numbers on critical downs are deceiving. He completed ten of thirteen attempts, sure, but four of those completions did not turn into conversions. There were a number of third down plays where Barrett had no interest in attempting a throw beyond the sticks. He wanted to make the easy throw and hope that his guy would convert. This can be acceptable every now and then, but Barrett made it a consistent theme. A quarterback should be more aggressive in trying to keep drives alive.

The red zone was a disaster for Barrett. The blatant drop and throwaway skew his numbers a little bit, but completing only one of six attempts in the red zone is bad, regardless of how you look at it. Ohio State needed to put points on the board and Barrett couldn’t complete passes in the area that mattered most. Barrett has to be better in the red zone moving forward.

Route Break Key:

  • S = Screen, Shoot, Swing
  • O = Out-breaking
  • I = In-breaking
  • V = Vertical
  • C = Crossing
S 10/11 (1 DB)
O 7/11 (1 DE, 1 TD)
I 7/10 (1 ADJ, 2 DB)
V 0/3 (1 DE)
C 2/4 (2 DE)

Vertical routes were the only type of route that gave Barrett fits. A measly three deep attempts is bad enough, but not completing any of them makes Barrett’s downfield passing vs Penn State a tough pill to swallow. Barrett was accurate on almost all of his in-breaking routes and he threw effectively on out-breaking routes. It’s a simpler task, but Barrett also made sure to hit all of his screen passes accurately. Too many young quarterbacks fail to do so.

Target Distribution

Dontre Wilson (No.2) 2/3 (1 ADJ, 1 DE)
Curtis Samuel (No.4) 7/9
Mike Campbell (No.21) 1/1
Mike Weber (No.25) 8/9 (1 DB)
Noah Brown (No.80) 2/3 (1 DB)
James Clark (No.82) 0/3 (2 DE)
Terry McLaurin (No.83) 1/2 (1 DE)
Marcus Baugh (No.85) 5/9 (1 DB, TD)

If there is anything Barrett is good at, it’s understanding who his playmakers are. Running backs Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber are both young stars, so flipping it down to them as often as he did had its perks. There were plenty of times where it was too conservative of a play, but overall, giving those two the ball was a net positive.

Tight end Marcus Baugh also saw plenty of targets. He was Barrett’s safety blanket over the middle of the field and was the recipient of Barrett’s one touchdown pass. That touchdown took an insane effort from Baugh, too. He caught the pass around the ten-yard line and battled through a handful of Penn State defenders to cross the goal line.

The main gripe with Barrett’s distribution was Noah Brown’s lack of targets. Brown is the best wide receiver that Ohio State has and he has legitimate big play potential. He’s also a smooth player over the middle of the field. Barrett should have given Brown a few more chances to make something happen.

All in all, JT Barrett was good in a game where he needed to be more than that. His ability to sift through a muddied pocket and protect the ball was impressive, no doubt. Barrett also proved he can be an accurate passer at most levels of the field. Though, as efficient and secure as he was, Barrett never made the big plays he needed to in order to give the offense life.

This could have been a huge win for Barrett’s resume. It’s a rare situation for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes squad, but Ohio State absolutely needed their quarterback to rise above last Saturday. Barrett could not live up to the moment.

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