Ohio State fans got a good, long look at redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins in April’s spring game. Playing for both teams, Haskins completed 26-of-37 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns.
Following Wednesday’s news that fellow backup Joe Burrow broke a bone in his throwing hand, fans should expect to see some more of Haskins moving forward.
What will they see? Haskins is the tallest of Ohio State’s quarterbacks, standing 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, but probably the least-likely to be called upon to carry the ball 20 times in a tight game. He can do that — just like Cardale Jones could do it — but they are both more comfortable doing their damage in the pocket.
Being comfortable doesn’t really matter, however, because the Buckeyes will still have an offense to run.
“He’s gotten where he’s stronger and he’s more mobile,” said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. “When he’s in right now we run our offense, so it doesn’t change. If there’s a quarterback-oriented run he’s going to run because quite honestly the second-team offensive line, tight ends and receivers have to run those plays, so it’s not like it’s different. He’s gotten a lot of reps just doing what we do, whether it be a quarterback design run or quarterback read or quarterback movement play. He moves well and he’s getting better. He’s strong.”
The similarities with Jones don’t necessarily end with their desire to work near the pocket, either. As with Jones, the No. 1 trait that is talked about with Haskins is his arm. And like Jones, the lack of experience will be an issue until he proves that it isn’t.
“Dwayne is a young guy with a lot of arm-talent,” Wilson said. “He’s a young guy who is learning the offense and getting more comfortable. Coach Day is doing a great job with him, a great job with all those guys. He needs to play as all those guys who haven’t played, but in practice going against a great defense every day it’s very, very competitive, very, very challenging. He’s held his own, but when we get out there for real with the bullets flying, we’ll see when that opportunity presents itself how he plays.”
When Haskins does finally get that opportunity to play in his first game as a Buckeye, don’t expect him to be overwhelmed, because he has just about all of the confidence you could want in a quarterback.
“I’m just really confident with where I put the ball,” Haskins said. “I know that I can make any throw on the field. So when I go play and someone’s open, I throw it to them. If he’s covered a little bit, I feel like I can get it in the window and throw it. Just having that gunslinger mentality.”
Ohio State rode that mentality — and Ezekiel Elliott — to a national title in 2014, so there is certainly precedence for that type of belief system. It didn’t work so well in 2015, however.
“We’re all our own each individuals,” J.T. Barrett said when asked to compare Haskins to Jones. “I say that because with Cardale at times he would throw the ball and I would be like ‘I don’t know if I would have thrown that one.’ That’s sometimes how [Dwayne] is.”
There are plenty of differences between Haskins and Jones, however. Perhaps the No. 1 difference being that Jones never prepared like a starter until he had to be a starter. Haskins, on the other hand, already practices like he’s the guy.
“Whether I’m going in with the ones, the twos, or the young guys, I’m going in there I’m thinking I’m the guy,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing with the ones every day. It’s just having that mentality that one day I will be the guy, but I’m going to play like it in practice.”
The reason that Ohio State can build that mentality in their quarterbacks is because there is proof of it in action. The coaches point to the 2014 season as the prime example, and for good reason, but the 2013 and 2015 seasons also needed more than one quarterback to be ready.
Haskins is now one snap away from being the man, and every snap he has has taken in the spring and summer has been done with that singular thought in mind.
“They always preach about 2014 and just how everybody was ready to play, whether it was Braxton or J.T. or Cardale,” Haskins said prior to Burrow’s injury. “All three of us are competing really hard and if one of us goes in, we’re going to root for each other. But the ultimate goal is to be a starter one day, so that’s what we’re all competing to be.”