Film Study: Grading The Performances of All Three Buckeye Quarterbacks Against UNLV

By Kyle Jones on September 25, 2017 at 11:30 am
J.T. Barrett had a very strong showing against UNLV, but how did it compare to those of Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow?

The first question was inevitable.

Ohio State Football Film Study

"Can you give an evaluation of how [Dwayne Haskins] played overall?

After the redshirt freshman saw the first action of his career in the week prior, J.T. Barrett's seeming heir-apparent signaled excitement within a fanbase becoming restless with the anemic performance of Ohio State's downfield passing game over the past few years. As the Maryland native announced his arrival in Ohio Stadium last Saturday with a 28-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter of the Buckeyes' blowout win over UNLV, it seemed as though the quarterback controversy some in Columbus have been waiting for had finally commenced.

But as the sunny afternoon in the Horseshoe progressed, Haskins seemed to come back to earth. Though he'd finish the day with 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns, by no means had he supplanted the fifth-year senior ahead of him on the depth chart. Additionally, Haskins' competition for Barrett's job, Joe Burrow, saw his first action of the year as he returned from a hand injury.

Yet Meyer hesitated to answer that initial question by noting, "I hate to do that because I'm usually wrong until I watch the videotape."

So, given that we didn't learn much else from such a dominant victory over a lesser opponent, let's follow Meyer's lead and examine how each of the three quarterbacks played against the rebels, and see if there's any reason to believe the starting job should belong to anyone besides the incumbent.

J.T. Barrett

State Line: 12-17, 209 yds, 12.3 yds/att, 5 TD, 0 INT, 270.92 Rating

The Good: Yet again, Barrett showed excellent accuracy on underneath throws, fitting the ball into tight windows like this one, hitting Johnnie Dixon on the underneath curl in Mike Martz's (and Chip Kelly's) version of the Mesh concept. If this throw looks familiar, it should, as it's the exact same play Dixon scored on in the season opener against Indiana.

Barrett fits it through the tight window

But unlike weeks past, Barrett's arsenal wasn't limited to just short crossing routes and bubble screens, as he showed outstanding touch on this end zone fade route to Binjamin Victor. While Victor had a clear size advantage over the cornerback in coverage, Barrett placed the ball perfectly over the defender's head and allowed his receiver to hold on through the eventual contact.

Barrett places a perfect fade

That wasn't the only time Barrett showed an ability to make plays near the goal line through the air, dropping a perfect pass into the back corner of the end zone where only Terry McLaurin could get to it. Though it's only listed as a 4-yard pass in the box score, Barrett's feet were at the 11-yard line just inside the opposite hash, meaning this was actually a 40-yard throw that was delivered perfectly.

Barrett drops it in the bucket

That wasn't the only long throw Barrett connected on that day either, as he found Parris Campbell on a quick, 15-yard play-action post that split the two safeties and hit the Buckeyes' leading receiver in stride.

J.T. hits Campbell on the post

As usual, Barrett made excellent decisions with the ball, showcasing a new run-pass option that asked the quarterback to read two separate defenders on the play - determining which route to hit based on the movement of the flat defender.

The Bad: Once again, Barrett missed a receiver downfield, this time sailing an easy corner route to an open K.J. Hill.    

What's most disappointing about this effort is the fact that this isn't a new concept introduced by Kevin Wilson or Ryan Day, but rather, one that's been in the playbook longer than the veteran has been on campus and one he's undoubtedly repped hundreds of times over the years.

Overall Grade: A- 

Though he missed the deep ball to Hill, Barrett had very few misfires during his short showing on Saturday. Of his five incompletions, at least two were thrown away near the red zone when no one was open, and his outstanding QB rating reflected how good he was overall.

Dwayne Haskins

State Line: 15-23, 228 yds, 9.9 yds/att, 2 TD, 1 INT, 168.49 Rating

The Good: The youngster made his presence felt immediately, driving the Buckeyes to the end zone on a seven play, 75-yard drive in which he went 2-3 and capped it off with this 28-yard laser to C.J. Saunders. Not since Cardale Jones' playoff run in 2014 have Buckeye fans seen such a throw, leaving many to wonder what else Haskins had up his sleeve. 

Haskins throws a frozen rope

Leading the offense on seven drives, more than any other QB that afternoon, Haskins was given plenty of opportunities to showcase his arm, which he also did on this deep corner route to Saunders late in the game.

The Bad: Haskins also struggled at times, missing open receivers on a number of occasions.

Below, he rushes to throw a dart to Antonio Williams on a wheel route in which the back had a huge lead on the trailing defender instead of just lofting it into the end zone. Mistakes like these matter, as the Buckeyes were forced to kick a field goal three plays later instead of putting an easy six on the board. 

Haskins overthrows an easy TD

Although he showed the ability to hit downfield throws, Haskins seemed to trust his arm a little too much, nearly throwing an interception on the same "Sail" concept Barrett missed earlier in the game.

Haskins gets away with one

The freshman also seemed uncomfortable in the pocket, sometimes unwilling to pull the trigger when a receiver clearly flashed open.

This same anxiety showed up again on his interception, as he correctly changed the play after the defense showed blitz. However, even though he made the right read to his 'hot' receiver, the tight end on a quick out, he held the ball one beat too long, allowing the defender to close on his pass and take it the other way.

Haskins rushes and results in an INT

Overall Grade: B

While Haskins certainly showed plenty of talent, he also showed his youth and inexperience. As Meyer noted in his press conference, "I pray he doesn't throw that darned ball into coverage like that. He's got work to do but you can see the talent."

Joe Burrow

State Line: 4-4, 37 yds, 9.3 yds/att, 0 TD, 0 INT, 177.70 Rating

The Good: Though Burrow only appeared for one drive, and according to his coach is still only "about 90 percent" healthy, he was still given the chance to make his case for more playing time. Though he doesn't have a cannon quite like Haskins, he showed enough arm to push the ball downfield on target, as he did on this 'Follow' concept.  

Burrow throws a strike

The Bad: There was little to nitpick from Burrow's limited showing, although besides the example above, the rest of his throws were either short crossing routes or check-downs, leaving many to justifiably have questions about his ability to ignite the downhill passing game. 

Overall Grade: B*

Burrow's grade receives an asterisk since it's difficult to compare his performance to those of Barrett and Haskins. But while he didn't blow anyone away on his lone possession under center, he was still effective, moving the ball downfield.

Although evaluators seem to fall in love with arm strength, any coach will tell you that the two most important traits for a quarterback are accuracy and decision-making. Distributing the ball to the right place at the right time is the only way any passing game will get off the ground.

While the Buckeyes can often simply beat opponents like UNLV with sheer physical talent in other phases of the game, the mental aspect of the quarterback position can't be glossed over, which is why J.T. Barrett will remain the Buckeyes' starter as long as he's healthy. 

Though it's fun to imagine Dwayne Haskins dropping frozen ropes behind the Penn State and Michigan secondaries, the reality is the OSU offense would be far more inefficient with him at the helm right now. The good news is he has the chance to learn from not one, but two players that excel in the phases of his game that still need refinement. 

For now, though, try to enjoy the school's (soon-to-be) all-time leading passer in his final season on campus. Guys with 79 career touchdown passes and only 22 interceptions don't come around very often.

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