By RUSTY MILLER
COLUMBUS — There are a lot of ways to describe J.T. Barrett’s new, amplified role for Ohio State.
His teammates and coaches say Barrett has taken over as No. 5 Ohio State’s starting quarterback as if that were the plan all along.
It wasn’t, of course. Barrett, a freshman, got the job when 2-time Big Ten player of the year Braxton Miller reinjured his throwing shoulder 10 days ago and was lost for the season.
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman, tongue in cheek, said the Buckeyes would try to keep things simple when Barrett starts his first college game on Saturday against Navy in Baltimore.
“We don’t ask the quarterback to be a rocket surgeon by any stretch of the imagination, never have and never will,” said Herman, who despite those words is a card-carrying member of MENSA, the organization for those with extraordinarily high intellects. “We might actually make a more conscious effort to keep it simple but not a ton less than we already do.”
Quarterback? Yes. Rocket scientist? No. Brain surgeon? No. And definitely not a rocket surgeon.
Luckily, Barrett has met most other requirements of the job. Coach Urban Meyer says Barrett is doing a great job handling one of the highest profile jobs at the college level.
To illustrate the problems that a player in his first collegiate game can encounter, Meyer told a story about Alex Smith, who stumbled in his debut under Meyer at Utah in 2003.
“I’ll never forget Alex Smith couldn’t say the first play when I put him in against Utah State in the fourth quarter,” recalled Meyer, with a grin. “We were winning. We called the play and I said, ‘Alex, say that play back to me.’ He couldn’t say the play. I thought, I wonder if this guy will ever be any good.”
Smith became a No. 1 draft pick and solid NFL quarterback.