Every team has flaws. Last week on the Big Ten blog, we identified a position group within every Big Ten program in need of help in 2016. Amid the doldrums of winter, it’s time for a little positive spirit, so we’re examining the strongest areas on every team this week. Next up: the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Position of strength: Quarterback
Key player: Junior J.T. Barrett
2015 production: Barrett didn't begin the year as a starter, as Urban Meyer went with Cardale Jones. Perhaps you remember hearing something about that.
But Barrett reclaimed the starting job by midseason and finished with 22 total touchdowns (11 rushing, 11 passing). He was terrific in Ohio State's final two games against Michigan and Notre Dame, completing over 60 percent of his passes and rushing for 236 yards.
Barrett is one of the few star Buckeyes returning in 2016, as nine underclassmen declared for the NFL draft.
How he can help: With so much production gone from the offense, including star running back Ezekiel Elliott, Barrett could be asked to shoulder a heavier load in '16, especially early on.
The Buckeyes hope Barrett can continue his late-season momentum into next year and play like he did as the starter in 2014, when he was the Big Ten quarterback of the year after accounting for 45 total touchdowns and setting several school records.
Barrett is the most accomplished returning quarterback in the Big Ten. Ohio State will need him to stay healthy, because there is virtually no experience behind him. Stephen Collier appeared in a game last year but has yet to throw a pass in college. Torrance Gibson was ESPN's No. 16 overall recruit last year but appears bound for a receiver/hybrid role. The Buckeyes do have a commitment from Dwayne Haskins Jr., one of the top quarterbacks in this year's class.
Still, Ohio State would love to see Barrett take every meaningful snap in 2016. With his talent and big-game experience, he could lead the Buckeyes to another Big Ten title in spite of all the departures from last year's roster.