Now that Dwayne Haskins has the second-team quarterback job to himself, Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson says the redshirt freshman “needs to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Wilson confirmed after practice Wednesday that Haskins is taking the majority of reps with the second-team offense after Joe Burrow, who was competing with Haskins to be J.T. Barrett’s backup, broke a bone in his throwing hand when he hit his hand on a helmet during a drill in Monday’s practice.
Wilson says the competition between Burrow and Haskins was very close before that injury, with both quarterbacks impressing the coaching staff, but Wilson wants to see Haskins elevate his game even more now that Burrow is sidelined.
"He has an opportunity to take advantage of those reps," Wilson said of Haskins. "They were both moving in a great direction, they were both standouts in every scrimmage. Just like the spring game, they were very, very comparable. And so, one guy gets a little bit more reps right now, does he take advantage of the opportunity?"
Wilson said he did not know the timetable for Burrow’s recovery. Wilson is optimistic that Burrow could come back ahead of schedule because of his toughness and competitiveness, but he also acknowledged that everyone responds to injuries differently. While Haskins moves into the backup quarterback role for now, Wilson said he is anxious to see how Burrow responds when he returns.
The advantage Burrow had over Haskins was that he at least saw some playing time, albeit limited, in actual games for the Buckeyes last season. Wilson is confident, though, that Haskins will be ready to play if needed.
"In practice, going against a great defense, it’s very, very competitive, it’s very, very challenging. He’s held his own," Wilson said. "He’s going every day against a pass-rush that is intense, with multiple looks and coverage scenarios, so he’s been stressed every day at a high level. So the only thing that’s different is there’s going to be people in the stands, but he’s been stressed every day and he’s ready to go play."
While Haskins’ skill set is different than Barrett’s, Wilson says he does not have to change his offense for Haskins to play, as Haskins has proven himself to be a capable runner as well as a passer.
"He’s gotten way stronger, he’s more mobile and when he is in right now, we run our offense," Wilson said. "He’s gotten a lot of reps just kind of doing what we do, whether it be a quarterback designed run or a quarterback read or a quarterback movement play, and he moves well and he’s getting better."
Wilson says the coaching staff has not yet determined whether true freshman Tate Martell, who would be the third quarterback on the depth chart with Burrow sidelined, will redshirt this year. Wilson says that could depend in part on how quickly Burrow is able to return.
"You hate to burn a redshirt year. But at the same time, you do what you need to be ready to play, and a lot of years you need more than one quarterback," Wilson said. "I don’t think we decide today he’s playing. I don’t think we decide today we’re not. They’re all three prepping to play, they all three need to get ready to play."
While Wilson spent most of Wednesday’s media availability answering questions about quarterbacks, he also fielded questions about who will play at tight end and right guard.
Starting tight end Marcus Baugh, who missed part of fall camp due to inflammation in his toe, is back practicing with the team and expected to play in the season opener. Converted defensive lineman Rashod Berry and redshirt freshmen Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann all also remain candidates to see playing time at tight end.
Matt Burrell, Branden Bowen and Malcolm Pridgeon are still competing for the open starting spot at right guard. Wilson said the coaches will see how they perform over the next week in practice before making a final decision.