Forecasting The Chances For Each Of Ohio State's Current Or Committed Quarterbacks To Start For The Buckeyes

By Dan Hope on July 2, 2018 at 8:35 am
Tate Martell
Greg Bartram – USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State now has five recruiting classes’ worth of quarterbacks either on its roster or committed to become Buckeyes.

Just one week after Oak Park (Mich.) four-star quarterback Dwan Mathis committed to be a part of Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2019, Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.) four-star quarterback Jack Miller committed to Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2020 on Sunday.

With those quarterbacks now both in line to become Buckeyes and three four-star quarterbacks already in Columbus – class of 2016 recruit Dwayne Haskins, class of 2017 recruit Tate Martell and 2018 recruit Matthew Baldwin – Ohio State’s stable of quarterback talent looks as though it will be well-stocked for at least the next half-decade to come.

All five of those quarterbacks have the potential to end up being Ohio State’s next great quarterback. The reality, however, is that not all of them will get that opportunity.

While all of those quarterbacks should have the opportunity to compete for a starting quarterback at least once in their Ohio State careers, some – like Joe Burrow, the Buckeyes’ class of 2015 quarterback, who left for LSU after competing with Haskins and Martell this past spring – might ultimately be forced to continue their careers elsewhere to get the opportunity to start.

For Ohio State, it’s a good problem to have, as the Buckeyes now have a handful of strong candidates to lead their offense over the next five to seven years. For the quarterbacks who have decided to be a part of it, though, they must be prepared to face stout competition from one another as they each look to prove they belong on the field in Columbus.

It would be short-sighted to rule out the possibility of any of Ohio State’s recruited quarterbacks eventually becoming the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback – they’re certainly all talented enough – so that’s not what we’re going to do here. We can take a look at the forecast, however, to project how each of them could factor into the Buckeyes’ future, what each of them will need to do to earn their chance to start and when each of their best opportunities to win the starting job could come.

Dwayne Haskins, Redshirt Sophomore (Class of 2016)

The only quarterback on this list who has already played in actual games for the Buckeyes, Haskins is in line to be Ohio State’s starting quarterback this season after winning the competition with Burrow and Martell this spring. While Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has said that Martell will have a continued opportunity to compete with Haskins in preseason camp, the Buckeyes are proceeding forward with the expectation that Haskins will be the first quarterback on the field when they open their season against Oregon State on Sept. 1.

Therefore, the question surrounding Haskins’ future playing the quarterback position at Ohio State isn’t whether he will start for the Buckeyes, but how successful and how long he will be in that role.

In eight games of limited action last season – most notably against Michigan, when he stepped in for injured starter J.T. Barrett and led Ohio State to a second-half comeback win – Haskins demonstrated tremendous arm strength and an exciting ability to make plays as a downfield passer. He still has to prove that he can consistently execute in meaningful game situations, make smart decisions with the football and become a team leader, but if early returns are any indication, he certainly appears to have the skills to be a star.

Should Haskins perform up to the lofty expectations, he’ll be Ohio State’s starting quarterback for two or three years if he wants to be – which could limit the opportunities of the quarterbacks recruited directly behind him. It’s also possible, though, that Haskins could be persuaded to join a 2019 NFL draft class that currently includes no sure-fire first-round picks at the quarterback position entering this fall.

Dwayne Haskins
The chances for Ohio State's other quarterbacks to start for the Buckeyes could depend on how long Dwayne Haskins stays in Columbus.

Tate Martell, Redshirt Freshman (Class of 2017)

Although Martell is currently in line to be Haskins’ backup for this season and potentially longer, it’s still possible that he could play a significant role in Ohio State’s offense as soon as this year.

Because Urban Meyer’s offenses have typically included a quarterback running game as a significant element, and Martell offers the upside to be the Buckeyes’ most explosive running quarterback since Braxton Miller, it’s been widely speculated that Ohio State could implement a package for Martell within its first-team offense. Martell himself has hinted at that possibility, though it hasn’t been confirmed by Ohio State’s coaches (and probably won’t be until it’s actually used in a game).

Martell clearly expects to see at least some meaningful playing time this year, so if the Buckeyes want to keep the 2016 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year happy, they’ll likely need to make that happen. As long as Martell stays the course, though, he should get the first shot to be Ohio State’s next starting quarterback after Haskins finishes his career as a Buckeye.

Like Haskins had to this year, Martell will still have to compete with the other quarterbacks on the roster for that job whenever it opens up. If Ohio State’s offense becomes more structured around the vertical passing game with Haskins at quarterback, that could also make one of the Buckeyes’ younger quarterback a more natural successor to the starting job. But Martell didn’t come to Ohio State to be a backup, nor was he recruited to be one, and his dual-threat playmaking ability gives him the potential to be a star, too.

Matthew Baldwin, Freshman (Class of 2018)

With two quarterbacks likely in line to start before him, Baldwin might be the quarterback who faces the most danger of being stuck in the same position as Burrow, who missed his opportunity to start for the Buckeyes not only because of Haskins’ emergence behind him, but also Barrett’s five-year career in front of him.

Should Martell win the starting job after Haskins, and either one of them hold that job for multiple seasons, Baldwin – like Burrow going into this spring – faces the possibility of not getting his best shot at winning Ohio State’s starting quarterback job until at least his fourth year on campus.

If the vertical passing game does in fact become a greater component of Ohio State’s offense, however, that could play into Baldwin’s favor – especially if offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, who led the way in recruiting Baldwin, is still with the Buckeyes the next time the starting job opens up. Baldwin doesn’t offer the same potential as Martell (or Dwan Mathis behind him) as a runner, but he could prove to be a better downfield passer.

Because Baldwin was the least touted recruit among Ohio State’s current scholarship quarterbacks or committed quarterbacks, he’s the easiest to write off for future quarterback competitions. But it’s worth keeping in mind that Baldwin was only a one-year starter at Lake Travis High School – the same high school as Baker Mayfield, who began his college football career as a walk-on, and ended it as a Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick – and might well have been far more highly touted if he had the opportunity to start earlier.

Dwan Mathis, Class of 2019

Until last weekend, it looked as though Ohio State might have to settle for a less talented quarterback for the recruiting class of 2019, which might have made that quarterback the most likely to be a career backup for the Buckeyes. That changed in a big way, however, when Mathis announced his decision to decommit from Michigan State and become a Buckeye instead.

For Mathis, the ideal scenario might be one in which Haskins starts for the Buckeyes for two years, then leaves for the 2020 NFL draft. That would allow Mathis to get a year under his belt – likely a redshirt year, though the new redshirt rule would still allow him to get some playing time – and have a real opportunity to compete with Martell and Baldwin for the starting job the next time it comes open.

If Martell ends up being Ohio State’s next starting quarterback after Haskins, the job opening up in 2021 could also be a good scenario for Mathis, as it would potentially put him in position to be the Haskins to Baldwin’s Burrow if he can perform well enough in limited action to surge ahead of Baldwin on the depth chart.

Regardless of things ultimately play out with Haskins and Martell, Mathis should make a serious run at Ohio State’s starting quarterback job at one point or another. He wouldn’t have flipped from Michigan State if he wasn’t confident he could, and he offers perhaps the best combination of passing and running ability of any of Ohio State’s current or committed quarterbacks.

Dwan Mathis
Dwan Mathis wouldn't have flipped from Michigan State to Ohio State if he didn't believe he could eventually be the Buckeyes' starter.

Jack Miller, Class of 2020

Even though he is the furthest away from playing in an actual game for the Buckeyes, Miller might be the safest bet outside of Haskins to eventually become a starting quarterback for Ohio State, as it’s clear – and already has been clear for a couple years – that Meyer and his staff view Miller as the Buckeyes’ eventual quarterback of the future.

Unlike Baldwin and Mathis, who both received offers from Ohio State after committing to other schools (Baldwin was committed to Colorado State before receiving an offer from Ohio State last November), Miller received an offer from the Buckeyes before his sophomore year of high school, and has always been Ohio State’s top priority at quarterback for the 2020 recruiting class.

Miller, like Haskins and Baldwin, is a pro-style quarterback who is far more of a thrower than a runner, but he already demonstrates the potential to be an elite passer. And the Buckeyes wouldn’t have pursued Miller so early in the process if they didn’t believe he could be ultimately be a perfect fit for their offense.

Considering that any and potentially even all the four quarterbacks above him could still be at Ohio State when Miller arrives in 2020, it’s hard to forecast when his best opportunity to win the starting job might be. By 2021, though, Miller could easily vault ahead of the older quarterbacks and emerge as the frontrunner whenever the starting job next comes open.

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