Dwayne Haskins is Ohio State’s starting quarterback, but Tate Martell will still have a chance to compete for the job in preseason camp.
Both of those things cannot be completely true, but Urban Meyer said both on Friday, when he met with reporters at Ohio State for the first time since April's spring game at the Buckeyes’ annual job fair.
When asked whether Martell would have a chance to earn playing time this summer, Meyer responded affirmatively.
"He will have a chance to compete for that spot," Meyer said.
When asked whether he still considered the quarterback competition to be an open competition, however, Ohio State’s coach said the job is Haskins’ to lose.
"Dwayne’s our starting quarterback," Meyer said. "Like any position; right now, Thayer Munford’s our left tackle, but they’re competing for that spot. The better you recruit, the more competition you have."
Meyer is a coach who constantly encourages and expects his players to compete regardless of their standing on the depth chart, and that’s how he’s continuing to approach the quarterback competition. Meyer wants Haskins to prove in fall camp that he deserves to be the starting quarterback, and he wants Martell to still have something to compete for.
Because Haskins still hasn’t started a game for the Buckeyes, while Martell hasn’t even played in a game for the Buckeyes, they’re in a very different position than they were the past two seasons, when Meyer never entertained the idea of a quarterback competition with J.T. Barrett.
What is clear now, though, is that the Buckeyes are proceeding forward with the idea that Haskins is their starting quarterback, and unlike in the spring – when Haskins, Martell and now-transferred Joe Burrow all split first-team reps in what really was an open competition – Haskins should get the majority of work with the first-team offense in fall camp.
Ohio State’s wide receivers believe that’s a good thing, not because they don’t believe Martell can do the job too, but because it enables them to build a rapport with Haskins.
"It’s hard when you have multiple quarterbacks, trying to get in a rhythm," Parris Campbell said. "So knowing that he’s the guy, it definitely makes it a lot easier."
Meyer believes those wide receivers – one of the most experienced position groups on the entire team, led by three fifth-year seniors in Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon as well as fourth-year junior K.J. Hill – will play a key role in helping the Buckeyes overcome their inexperience at the quarterback position.
"I’m very confident in the ability of the guys, but there’s a lot of newness," Meyer said of his quarterbacks. "What’s really neat to see is, you got four legitimate leaders in our program at receiver, and (strength and conditioning coach Mickey) Marotti just is very positive about everything going on in that room and how they’re really helping Dwayne with a leadership standpoint. And that’s a void. J.T. Barrett was not a good leader, but a phenomenal leader."
Campbell said Friday that he had been chosen by his teammates to give the Buckeyes their pregame locker room speeches this year, a role that was fulfilled by Barrett last year.
Meyer doesn’t want to close the book on Ohio State’s quarterback competition yet, and it remains to be seen whether Martell will have a situational role in the offense if he is the backup quarterback. Barring an injury or other unforeseen circumstance, however, Haskins will almost certainly be the quarterback who takes the field first when the Buckeyes open their season against Oregon State on Sept. 1, and the players who will be catching passes from him feel good about that development.
"Even before Joe left, we felt like we couldn’t lose whoever the quarterback was going to be, but knowing Dwayne’s going to be the guy, I feel that takes a little bit of pressure off of him," McLaurin said.
The expectation surrounding Haskins is that he will add a greater vertical passing element to Ohio State’s offense, as he has demonstrated both the ability and willingness to throw the ball into tight windows downfield, and that gives the Buckeyes’ receivers reason to be excited.
"I like that," McLaurin said as a smile lit up his face.