When Ohio State announced early Wednesday morning that backup quarterback Joe Burrow broke a bone in his throwing hand on Monday, the very future of the position was dropped into a state of flux.
Or was it?
There are several things to consider with Burrow’s injury, but the first of which is in the here and now. Redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins has now officially won the backup quarterback spot. That battle will resume when Burrow returns, but for now it will be Haskins who gets the majority of the No. 2 reps. True freshman Tate Martell will get more reps now as well because he will have to be ready for whatever may come.
Urban Meyer had yet to announce a winner in the backup battle, and probably wasn’t likely to do so anyway. Even quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said naming a backup before the Indiana game in eight days wasn’t a necessity.
But now that Burrow has dropped out of the race indefinitely, it will be up to Haskins to step forward and be the leader that Burrow had become.
Haskins has shown his teammates that he has the arm to get the job done. It will be the other aspects of being a quarterback, however, that determine just how good he can be.
“Dwayne, better known as Ross in the quarterback room, my man Ross, I would say with him he’s a little risky,” said starter J.T. Barrett. “He has a little bit of mentality like Cardale. His arm can take him places but then also too it can get him in some tight spots as well, but when he’s set up to throw the ball and he’s in rhythm he has a big arm.”
While everybody in the building loves what Haskins can do, he comes with more concerns than Burrow did. Of course, he also has the ability to stretch the field, which is exactly what this offense has been emphasizing since Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson got to town. If the unthinkable happened and J.T. Barrett went down again early in the season, Haskins wouldn’t be out of his element in running the offense.
But we probably shouldn’t speak such a thing into existence.
So what happens when Burrow gets back? Great question. He will have to get eased back into practice, which means that he won’t step right back into the backup spot. He’ll have to move past Tate Martell first, and then show that he still has a better command of the offense than Haskins.
Can that happen now if he’s out for even a month?
That’s sort of the crazy thing about this injury. It could mean nothing and Burrow could step right back into the backup spot by the middle of October, or it could alter the Ohio State quarterback situation forever.
Joe Burrow was going to be the backup this year and then be the favorite to start next year. Now, that scenario is completely up in the air. Or still completely grounded in reality. We don’t know.
Some might suggest that this would be the ideal time for Burrow to transfer because that’s what quarterbacks do when they get passed on the depth chart. I don’t see Burrow thinking about anything other than getting back on the practice field for his guys. He has already invested two-and-a-half years at Ohio State. A broken bone in his hand isn’t going to be the thing that convinces him it’s time to move on. He still believes he will be the starter here next year, and he should. Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell should believe they’re starting next year too.
We know what this means for Haskins, but what does it mean for Martell? They will have to get him ready to play, but I don’t expect to see him on the field this season. If this is just a month-long thing for Burrow, then there’s no reason to unnecessarily burn Martell’s redshirt. If it turns out to be more than that, however, then they’ll have to consider it.
None of this is ideal, but that’s why you have four quarterbacks on scholarship. It helps you create a better situation when an ideal situation no longer exists.
If all goes well, Burrow will be back before we know it, and in the meantime Dwayne Haskins will get the same amount of game action that Burrow received a year ago as a redshirt freshman. There is no substitution for game action, after all.
And then the two of them can perhaps compete on a more even footing down the stretch.
I don’t believe this is the end of the battle between Burrow and Haskins. This is just an indefinite hiatus.
We will speak with Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson Wednesday evening and see if he wants to provide an update on how long he expects Burrow to be out, as well as how much it will affect the quarterback battle the rest of the season.
Do not expect this to be the end of Joe Burrow, however.