Smith hints he may cast Heisman vote for Barrett
By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – At the Big Ten football media days in July, Ohio State senior tight end Jeff Heuerman called OSU quarterback Braxton Miller “Ohio State’s LeBron.”
He did not call backup J.T. Barrett, the Rookie of the Year when OSU’s LeBron went down with a season-ending shoulder injury a few days later, but he would have looked like Nostradamus if he had.
Barrett, a redshirt freshman, has emerged as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and has already put his name into the Ohio State record books by throwing 33 touchdown passes – three more than any other OSU quarterback has ever thrown in a season.
“I knew he was a great kid and he was going to succeed,” Heuerman said, looking back at Barrett’s unexpectedly strong first season. “Did I know he was going to be third in the Heisman race (according to ESPN) after Week 11? No. But he has done a great job.
“I’m just so happy for him. It couldn’t happen to a better person,” Heuerman said.
Barrett has thrown for 2,658 yards and 33 touchdowns and, while not as fast as Miller, has gained 849 yards and scored nine touchdowns on the ground.
His 12th career start on Saturday will be his first start in a Michigan game. And one of the people there to watch will be 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, who will have his number retired.
Smith’s 30 touchdown passes in 2006 was the Ohio State season record until Barrett broke it with a shovel pass to Jalin Marshall for a score against Indiana last week.
Smith went 3-0 as a starting quarterback against Michigan from 2004-2006, making him one of only two Buckeyes QBs to do that.
His advice to Barrett is to remember what got him to this point.
“The first advice is stick to the game plan. Don’t try to be someone that he’s not,” Smith said. “We’ve gotten to see the transformation and growth of J.T. Barrett this whole season.
“I’m pretty much blown away because as a freshman he’s doing some things it took me an ample amount of years to grasp and have an understanding of. He will do nothing but rise.”
Smith, who as a former winner has a Heisman Trophy vote, said he likes to wait until the very last minute to cast his ballot.
“The electors are usually sending me red alert emails like ‘Get your vote in now,’ ” he said.
Is there any chance Barrett’s name could appear on one of the three lines on his last-minute ballot?
“We’ve got great talent across the nation but I’m definitely biased toward some of the guys wearing the scarlet and gray. But you didn’t hear that from me,” he said.
So, is that an endorsement for Ohio State’s latest Heisman candidate from its most recent winner?
“Oh yeah, I think he should be in everybody’s mind,” Smith said. “Statistically, the things that he’s doing, obviously numbers don’t lie. Tom Herman (OSU offensive coordinator) and our offensive staff are putting him and other guys in positions to make plays, and J.T. is doing nothing but capitalizing on every single chance and opportunity.”
Jim Naveau is a sportswriter at The Lima News. Contact him at 419-993-2087 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.