For the first time since the 2015 offseason, Ohio State enters spring practice with a quarterback competition, and despite mass assumptions that Dwayne Haskins is the leader in the clubhouse, the Buckeyes maintain it is an open competition.
Haskins however said Thursday ahead of Ohio State's Pro Day that he is preparing as if the job is his.
"I am thinking that I am the guy. Until I am told otherwise, then I will stop doing it, but it's not my say," Haskins said.
Haskins is in a quarterback battle with both Joe Burrow and Tate Martell, a competition that is widely considered to at least last through the spring if not into fall camp.
Despite the competition in Ryan Day's room, Haskins said he has been preparing as 'the guy' since before J.T. Barrett's last game as a Buckeye.
"I have wanted to be the guy since I came here," he said. "Things happen not how you plan, but ever since the Michigan game and in the offseason, even though I am not told officially I am the starter, I am going to go out there and act like I am."
Haskins stepped in for an injured Barrett against the Wolverines and led Ohio State on three scoring drives in the second half, completing 6-of-7 passes for 94 yards and adding another 24 yards on the ground.
“I am thinking that I am the guy. Until I am told otherwise, then I will stop doing it, but it's not my say.”– Dwayne Haskins
That performance alone however, isn't enough for Haskins to lead the quarterback race according to Day.
"He did a nice job in that game, but now, this is a new year and so these guys got to come out and compete," Day said Thursday. "So just like anything else, what have you done for me lately? So he’s got to improve, he’s got to prove himself to be the starter, just like the other guys."
Sometimes, competition can breed dislike between teammates, but Haskins said much like the competition between Barrett and Cardale Jones in 2015, the quarterbacks maintain a good relationship off the field.
"Surprisingly, we are all friends. We don't let the competition get in the way of our friendship because at the end of the day, we are with each other every day," Haskins said. "On the field, it is a different atmosphere because we are competing, but we are pretty close."
When it comes to determining a starter for the Sept. 1 opener against Oregon State, Day said one of the main characteristics the Ohio State coaching staff will be looking for, as always in a quarterback, is leadership.
"Really, what we want is we want great leaders but when we look at quarterbacks to evaluate quarterbacks, we’re looking for guys who are competitors, guys who are tough, guys who are leaders, guys who have great football intelligence and then also guys who are great decision-makers," Day said. "You can tell that we have different shapes and sizes, but it’s our job as coaches to come up with the right plays that emphasize what they do best."
Haskins, whose big arm has many of the belief that he will win the job come fall, said he believes his leadership skills are already developed because of the relationships he has built with the rest of the offensive players on Ohio State's roster.
"I feel like I am a pretty great leader. I think I do a good job of involving all of my teammates. I feel like I am pretty close with everybody including the offensive linemen, tight ends, running backs and receivers," he said. "Being a leader, having a relationship with your teammates. If you disconnect with them, they won't follow you."
With so much practice time still to go, Day said there is still a lot to evaluate when it comes to the quarterback battle. Even though Haskins might be preparing as the starter in his mind, the coaches still want to see what the others in the group can do before making a decision.
"It’s just so early in this process. It’s easy when you’re the backup and you’re throwing 7-on-7 and nobody’s running around your legs and you’re just kind of throwing and catching, everything looks great," Day said. "When you’re in the fire, and there’s guys coming at you, and you got to work through all that stuff, then it’s a whole different story. So once we get into those situations, more of the live drill with pads on, we’ll have a better idea of all that. But all these guys are talented."