Ohio State’s offense had a different look and feel on Saturday.
With Dwayne Haskins now starting at quarterback instead of J.T. Barrett, Ohio State threw the ball downfield more – with Haskins completing 22 of 30 passing attempts for 313 yards and five touchdowns – and ran the quarterback less, as Haskins kept the ball to run himself just twice, in the Buckeyes' 77-31 season-opening win over Oregon State.
One of the top beneficiaries of that was starting ‘X’ receiver Austin Mack, who caught five passes for 69 yards – both more than he caught in all but one game in 2017 (six catches for 90 yards) – and he acknowledged that he said Tuesday that he’s enjoying what Haskins is bringing to the passing game.
“It’s a lot more fun,” Mack said. “We have a lot of weapons in the receiving room, and the fact that Dwayne has a tremendous arm and is able to hit us in our breaks, when we need the ball and able to lead us when we need to and just run our offense clean, it’s super fun.”
Mack’s enjoyment in playing with Haskins doesn’t just stem from Haskins’ arm talent, but also from the fact that they are roommates that have been friends since even before the two Buckeyes – both currently in their third year of college – arrived at Ohio State.
“Me and Dwayne been buddies for awhile now,” Mack said. “We actually met in recruiting. So he’s a best friend of mine. That’s my guy.”
“We have a lot of weapons in the receiving room, and the fact that Dwayne has a tremendous arm and is able to hit us in our breaks, when we need the ball and able to lead us when we need to and just run our offense clean, it’s super fun.”– Austin Mack
When they are at their apartment instead of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Mack said he and Haskins typically don’t talk about football, instead trying to keep things relaxed – whether that means playing a game of NBA 2K, playing poker or listening to their favorite rapper, J. Cole.
“We try and keep football at the Woody,” Mack said. “If we ever need to talk about anything, we will, but it’s really casual. We just try and keep it a friendly thing.”
In a video for the YouTube channel "Chimin' In Media" this summer, Mack and Haskins gave a tour of the apartment they live in together:
There have been times, though, that Haskins and Mack have gone to throw and catch passes together, just the two of them, during the offseason. Mack said they did so especially this past winter, going into the spring, as both of them believed that this year could be their time to shine.
“After the season last year, we were like, ‘Okay, it’s our time,’” Mack said. “We can really make a big jump. Now let’s go to work, and let’s make it happen. Let’s make it come true.”
While Mack and Haskins have a special bond with one another, though, Mack said he believes Haskins – and all the quarterbacks – does a good job of building relationships and developing trust with all the wide receivers both on and off the field.
“Our receiver room, we always hang out with the quarterbacks. So we’re able to have that conversation,” Mack said. “It isn’t like a distance, we only see each other on the field. So being able to have that conversation off the field, being able to hang out, just to know the guy, it just helps to build trust.”
Fellow Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill – who led Ohio State in receptions (56 for 549 yards) with Barrett leading the offense in 2017, but did so once again on Saturday (six for 82 yards) – also said Tuesday that he is also enjoying the opportunity to catch the ball from Haskins this season, and believes the Buckeyes offense will continue to be more passing-oriented from the quarterback position.
“I feel like we can do a little bit more in the passing game with Dwayne, because of the type of quarterback he is,” Hill said. “So I feel like we probably are more likely going to throw it more than last year.”