To risk or not to risk, that is not the question for the Ohio State quarterbacks this preseason.
We thought it was until this week, but Ryan Day and J.T. Barrett set the record straight Monday.
Turns out throwing contested passes (or not throwing them enough, to be more precise) has been a topic of discussion for the Ohio State quarterbacks, but framing that as taking more risks is not exactly accurate.
“My experience the last couple of years,” said Day, who spent the last two seasons in the NFL before taking the job as Ohio State quarterbacks coach earlier this year, “is nobody was open, so you had to throw the ball to contested receivers. And that’s not throwing the ball into traffic. Not throwing the ball foolishly and making poor decisions, but that’s if a guy is covered and contested, where are we throwing the ball? Where only he can catch it. So that’s how we’re being aggressive without being foolish and not playing within the plan to win.”
As for the idea Barrett was too careful with the ball, I am among those who subscribed to it because, well, it seems to have a lot of merit.
The fifth-year senior from Texas never had much trouble taking care of the ball last year, but he looked indecisive at times, too. Film reviews would reveal passing windows he passed up at times. He threw only seven interceptions, but the offense struggled from a lack of explosive gains.
When it comes to risk management and reward, there’s also an easy line to draw between Barrett and the opposing quarterback in the most recent game Ohio State played.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw his share (17) of picks last season but ended it holding up the national championship trophy. Now Watson is trying to make it as a first round draft pick in the NFL, and Barrett is looking to get his team where Watson’s was in January (not to mention make drafting him a more enticing idea for NFL general managers).
Barrett, who threw seven interceptions (on 200 fewer pass attempts than Watson) last season, seems to have taken Day’s message to heart this preseason.
“What we do on defense here with the press quarters is challenging every throw, so with that you’ve got to do your best to give your guy an opportunity to catch the football,” Barrett said. “With that, last year when somebody was draped all over my guys, certain situations like third downs I would do that, but even if it’s first-and-10, second down, just give a guy an opportunity to go make a play for us instead of just checking down or running it or things like that.”
Interceptions might never be acceptable, but there is such a thing as being too careful.
Some quarterbacks have a knack for knowing when to push the envelope a bit, but rather than worry about walking that line, Day has emphasized ball placement.
Throwing the ball to a receiver who is covered is not much more risky if the ball ends up where only the offense can get to it.
“It’s just a different mindset,” Barrett said. “And Coach Day really brought it to our attention as quarterbacks.
“It makes sense when you get to a higher level of football. Last year when we were playing Clemson, was anybody really open or running free? Not really because that’s the top tier of football. I guess when skill level is equated, that’s how it was.”