For the first time since the 2012 season, Ohio State’s quarterback roster does not include J.T. Barrett.
Ohio State’s all-time winningest starting quarterback finished his lengthy career as a Buckeye last season, and as a result, the Buckeyes are entering the season without a single quarterback who has started a collegiate game.
The Buckeyes also lost their second-most veteran quarterback from last season, Joe Burrow, who is now at LSU after leaving Ohio State as a graduate transfer.
Even so, there’s absolutely reason to be excited about the potential that Ohio State’s quarterback room offers, as the Buckeyes have multiple players at the position who appear to have the skills to be stars.
We begin our 2018 Season Preview with a look at the Buckeyes’ signal-callers.
What We Know
In his first, and to this point only, playing time with a game on the line in his Ohio State career, Dwayne Haskins came off the bench – after Barrett had to leave the game with a knee injury – to lead the Buckeyes to a come-from-behind, 31-20 win over Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Throughout last season – in which he saw limited action in nine games, completing 70.2 percent of his passing attempts (40-of-57) for 565 yards and four touchdowns with one interception – Haskins demonstrated flashes of his potential as a vertical passer, showing an ability to throw the ball deep that the Buckeyes haven’t had since Cardale Jones.
As a result of that impressive performance last season and continuing to perform well this spring, Haskins is fully expected to be the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback when the season begins on Sept. 1.
We also know, though, that Tate Martell is a gifted athlete with dangerous running ability, which means he will likely see some significant playing time this season even if Haskins starts all year. Even though he hasn’t played in an actual game for the Buckeyes yet, he’s already become known for his competitive spirit, with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer comparing Martell to two of his most accomplished former quarterbacks – No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Alex Smith and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow – in that regard.
True freshman Matthew Baldwin, meanwhile, has been named as Ohio State’s third-string quarterback for the upcoming season, having already made a strong impression on his coaches and teammates since arriving as an early enrollee in January, even though he was sidelined this spring while recovering from a knee injury. He’s likely to redshirt this season, barring injuries to Haskins and Martell, but thanks to the rule change approved by the NCAA this summer, he could still see playing time in up to four games.
Ohio State’s quarterback roster is rounded out by sophomore walk-on Kory Curtis, who just became one of the latest Buckeyes to lose his black stripe, and true freshman walk-on Danny Vanatsky.
What We Don’t Know
Considering that no quarterback on Ohio State’s roster has ever started a game, there’s still a lot we don’t know about this position group.
|No.||Name||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Year||Hometown (High School)|
|7||DWAYNE HASKINS||QB||6-3||218||RS SO||Potomac, Md. (Bullis School)|
|10||DANNY VANATSKY||QB||6-2||195||FR||Cincinnati, Ohio (Christian Academy)|
|12||MATTHEW BALDWIN||QB||6-3||200||FR||Austin, Texas (Lake Travis)|
|16||KORY CURTIS||QB||6-3||230||SO||Cape Coral, Florida (Island Coast)|
|18||TATE MARTELL||QB||5-11||207||RS FR||Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman)|
While we know that Haskins has the physical ability to be a star passer – and he has proven his ability to perform in one very high-pressure situation – we still have to see if he can be consistently successful in leading Ohio State’s offense on an every-game basis.
Will Haskins make smart decisions with the football on a regular basis? When a game, a half or even a series doesn’t go his way, will he bounce back? Can he rally his teammates around him as a leader the same way that Barrett did so well? Those are all questions that need to be answered.
The biggest question with Haskins taking over as starting quarterback, though, is how Ohio State’s offense will look different as a result. Meyer has said that Haskins “is going to change how we attack defenses,” but he hasn’t gone into great detail about how the Buckeyes will do that, though he did say at Big Ten Media Days that could lead to more run-pass options.
“His skill set’s unique,” Meyer said of Haskins. “Very different than J.T. Barrett. His release, his size, his accuracy are his strengths. We’re still going to be a spread offense, which means you have dual opportunity to give it or pull it. The RPO, where we’ll give it or go throw it, I just think that’s probably going to be more involved than it was with J.T.”
How the Buckeyes adjust their offense could also depend on how much they plan to integrate Martell – another plan that coaches have been vague about, though Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days that they will find a way to get him on the field if he proves he should be.
“If he’s one of our best players, you have to find a way to get him in the game,” Meyer said of Martell. “And we have all kinds of ideas. A guy like that’s easy to get in the game.”
Haskins isn’t expected to run the ball as much as Barrett did, but there will still be a quarterback running element in Ohio State’s offense, and it’s possible – though at this point unknown – that Martell could play a big part in that.
The other big question at the time of this writing, with Ohio State’s investigation of Meyer ongoing, is whether quarterbacks coach Ryan Day will be able to focus on his position-coaching responsibilities – as well as his offensive coordinator responsibilities – or whether he will need to continue serving as the Buckeyes’ interim head coach into the season. Should Day’s head coaching responsibilities last beyond the next seven days – in which timeframe Ohio State is expected to conclude its investigation – that could have an impact on the amount of personal coaching the quarterbacks receive and on how the offense is run.
Whenever a team is replacing a successful quarterback with another highly touted player at the position, there’s typically a mix of two emotions: uncertainty over losing the quarterback from the past, and excitement over the potential of the quarterback of the future.
In this case, there should be uncertainty – and at least from the coaches’ perspectives, there appears to be some – over losing Barrett, Ohio State’s first-ever three-time captain and the Big Ten’s first-ever three-time Quarterback of the Year. The prevailing mood around the program, though, is that of excitement over Haskins, who has already been identified by oddsmakers as one of this year’s most likely Heisman contenders.
With a talented and experienced group of running backs and receivers surrounding him (more to come on those positions as our Season Preview continues), the outlook for a Haskins-led Ohio State offense is promising.
If Haskins can elevate the Buckeyes’ deep passing game the way he is expected to, Ohio State’s offense could be the most explosive it’s been since Jones’ three-game stretch to lead the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2014.
Add in the potential wrinkles that Martell could provide with his dual-threat playmaking ability, and Ohio State’s quarterbacks could give opposing defensive coordinators some serious headaches this season.
The biggest reasons for concern at the position are the lack of experience and depth, as Haskins enters the season as the only quarterback with game experience, while there are only three scholarship quarterbacks and five total quarterbacks on the entire roster. As long as Haskins can stay healthy, though, Ohio State should be in good hands at the quarterback position once again – and the potential is sky high.