As Va. Tech sees it, OSU QB J.T. Barrett is same vein as injured Braxton Miller
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- While it's true Virginia Tech's chances of pulling off an upset Saturday may have improved mid-August when Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending injury, his exit ruined some of Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller's plans. Fuller wanted to measure his skills against one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. He wanted to see what the big deal was about Miller, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior who was a serious Heisman Trophy candidate.
Tech coach Frank Beamer has news for Fuller. After seeing redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, Miller's replacement, in No. 5 Ohio State's 34-17 win last Saturday against Navy, Beamer isn't so sure Barrett isn't at least a decent Miller doppelganger."It's kind of the same guy," Beamer said.
"I don't think much [is different]. Maybe experience, but this Barrett kid is 6-1, 225 [pounds]. He had a great game against Navy running and throwing the football, so to me you've kind of got the same guy without some experience, but otherwise it's about the same. Otherwise, I'd say it's exactly the same."
Though Navy trailed Ohio State just 20-17 in the fourth quarter, Barrett led Ohio State to two touchdowns in the final nine minutes to put the Midshipmen away. In the second Ohio State season opener started by a freshman quarterback since 1950, Barrett completed 12 of 15 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and ran nine times for 50 yards.
"It was better at the end than the start," Barrett said to reporters after the game.
Barrett's numbers were Miller-esque. Miller averaged 147 passing yards, 85 rushing yards and 2.3 passing and rushing touchdowns per game in his career. He suffered a torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder in mid-August that required season-ending surgery.
"I was definitely disappointed," said Fuller of Miller's injury. "Not only just because I wanted to play against him, but just because you never wish injury upon any player, definitely this being his senior year and not being able to play his senior year at all. So, definitely something that I know a lot of people were hurt about, but at this level, things happen and you've got to move on."
Now, Barrett will try to post similar numbers against a Tech defense that held Football Championship Subdivision opponent William & Mary to 193 yards and 1-of-12 on third-down conversions in a 34-9 Hokies win. Of course, Ohio State's offense, which has gotten a significant injection of speed under coach Urban Meyer in his three seasons, will offer a more daunting challenge for Tech's defense.
"I was not surprised at all by J.T. [in the Navy game]," Meyer said Monday. "I thought he handled himself very well for his first start ... very cognitive quarterback; very smart quarterback that gets us in the right plays and makes the right decisions."Tech may have a little inside intelligence into how Meyer approaches games from offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who was the quarterbacks coach at Florida in 2009-10 when Meyer was in the last of his six seasons as the Gators' coach.
"I think all Scot's going to do is scare us about what we're getting ready to get into," Beamer said. "He has a lot of respect for Urban."
With an Ohio Stadium capacity of 104,944, Tech's football program will play in front of the biggest crowd it has ever seen. Before this weekend, the largest crowd Tech has ever played in front of was in 2007 when 92,739 fans attended No. 2 LSU's 48-7 win against No. 9 Tech in Tiger Stadium.
Tech may go to Ohio Stadium with a couple of true freshmen running backs leading its ground game. Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams were listed co-No. 1s on Tech's depth chart released Monday. McKenzie had nine carries for 106 yards against W&M, while Williams had 12 carries for 41 yards.
If Beamer is right about Barrett being a Miller-clone, Tech's defensive scheme may not have to change much against Ohio State, which enters the game with the nation's longest regular-season winning streak (25).
"From what I know of, the quarterback that they have now is still a running quarterback who can still make plays and who can still get out of the pocket and hurt people," Fuller said. "So, right now, I'm pretty sure the game plan isn't too much different."