The Ohio State quarterback situation may be the story of the Buckeyes’ spring camp. With J.T. Barrett off to his new life, the job is up for grabs and Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow, and Tate Martell have all been thrown into the starting mix by Urban Meyer. This, of course, means that quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day has to get each of them ready to be good enough to win the job.
By now, everyone should be aware of the stakes. If Burrow doesn’t win the job, there is a chance he will transfer following graduation and be eligible immediately wherever he ends up. So the question then becomes what happens if nobody has won the job out of spring ball? What if it is still wide open? Only time will tell.
With such a massive unknown, which could then lead to a gaping problem, Ryan Day has a lot on his plate this spring. I won’t be telling him anything he isn’t already aware of with this To Do list, but that has never stopped me before.
1. Give Joe Burrow a fair shake at the job.
So far, Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins are splitting reps with the ones, but there have only been two practices to this point. The Buckeyes will be back at it next Monday, and we can expect the rep-splitting to continue. Given the impact of a possible transfer, Ryan Day can’t leave the spring with doubts. The same can be said for Burrow. If the job is won or not won, at least Burrow will know that he was given a fair shake. If he wants to continue fighting for the job in the fall, he knows he’ll get a fair shake there as well. And if he doesn’t feel like he’s being given a shot in the spring, there is no reason for him to think he’ll get a shot in the fall. Burrow obviously believes he is good enough to win the job, so you may as well let him try.
2. Continue the progression of the RPO.
The allure of the read-option is that it can eliminate a defender without the use of a blocker. J.T. Barrett was fantastic at reading, but more and more, the read-option was a way for the defense to force Barrett to keep the football. With Barrett gone, the read-option will diminish this season. It won’t go away, but don’t expect Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow to be carrying the ball 21 times in a tight game. (It could still happen, though.) In order to get that same kind of blockerless advantage, the Buckeyes will likely increase the run-pass option in their game. This will require the same quick reading, but the end result will generally be a hand-off or a quick pass into the flats or a slant. It’s not easy, and it can often lead to plays getting blown up out wide for big losses. But simply by utilizing it in the offense, defenses are going to have to respect it out wide, which could lead to bigger running lanes in the second level.
3. Bring Dwayne Haskins along as a leader.
Joe Burrow learned how to be a leader from being attached to J.T. Barrett for three years. The two became incredibly close and you could see Burrow’s leadership skills on the sidelines and on the practice field. Dwayne Haskins didn’t have as much time with Barrett, but that didn’t keep him from learning. He is a calm and mature player — as he showed last season at Michigan. His teammates are excited about what he can bring to the offense, so they are more than willing to follow him. Now it is up to Ryan Day to continue to foster that leadership growth until everyone has complete confidence in Haskins as a leader and as the Buckeyes’ quarterback. Even if he doesn’t win the job, he can still be a leader.
4. Prepare Tate Martell for a role this season.
Redshirt freshman Tate Martell is planning on playing this season, so Ryan Day will need to work on making that happen. Martell is the best runner of the Ohio State quarterbacks, so he brings a different skill set than Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow. Could he be used in some packages here and there? I don’t think it would surprise anybody. If there is a transfer, however, he might become too valuable to use because if he goes down, then the Buckeyes would be left with just one healthy scholarship quarterback on the roster. Day will not only have to get Martell ready for some type of sub-package, but also prepare him for the possibility of being Ohio State’s starting quarterback. Obviously, that’s not all going to happen in the spring, but the groundwork needs to take place in case something terrible happens.
5. Keep Kory Curtis engaged.
Redshirt freshman Kory Curtis is Ohio State’s No. 4 quarterback this season. He is a walk-on from Florida who spent last season sharing snaps on the scout team with Tate Martell. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Curtis is more of a traditional drop-back passer, so he and Martell were able to mirror most of OSU’s opponents pretty well last year. There is no need for a scout team in the spring because there is nothing to scout, so Curtis’ snaps may be limited this season with a three-man battle royale at quarterback ahead of him. Regardless, Ryan Day is going to have to keep Curtis engaged because if there is a transfer this season, he is just one snap away from being Ohio State’s backup. Don’t be surprised if OSU goes after a graduate transfer to bolster their depth if they do lose a quarterback before fall camp.