Change is coming for the Ohio State offense, we just don’t know how much or what kind.
Every year, Urban Meyer and his offensive staff will chart their top playmakers and decide which players need to see the football on a regular basis. They watch in practice to see who does what, and then they come up with different ways to put those skill sets to good use. That process will continue on this year just as it always has, but while they are doing this, they are also trying to figure out the same with their three starting quarterback candidates.
After four years of J.T. Barrett handling the football for the Buckeye offense, it is time for someone else to take over. There is confidence in each of Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow, and Tate Martell, but their differences from Barrett are going to bring some change to the offense.
“That’s what we’re working through right now,” said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. “And that’s the beauty of college football, trying to find the right plays that fit the guys we have. It’s not that we’re starting a new offense, it’s that we’re going to emphasize and utilize the plays in the playbook that fit them the best. So every quarterback’s a little bit different that way.”
Just as the coaches will look for the best ways to use running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, or H-backs Demario McCall, Parris Campbell, and K.J. Hill, they do the same thing for the quarterbacks. They will put each of Haskins, Burrow, and Martell in many different situations, all the while looking for the situations where they produce the best.
Depending on the player, it can either be a process of elimination or an embarrassment of riches. But until you run it all through in practices, you just don’t know.
“You always want to enhance the offense and try some new wrinkles here and there, but whatever the quarterback does well, we have a big playbook, we’re going to try and use those plays and emphasize those plays,” Day said. “However, when you look at the quarterbacks we have, when one guy’s in the game, we may be emphasizing one thing more than another. So that’s all part of it and that’s the process we’re in right now. We’re just getting started at that.”
The differences from Barrett compared to each of the quarterbacks means this Ohio State offense won’t look identical to the offenses of the past. We know what the offense won’t look like, but the differences in skill set between each of the three quarterbacks competing for the job now means that there are a number of directions things could go this season.
“Nobody’s quite like Tate or Joe or Dwayne,” Day said. “Again, that’s what we’re working on right now. I would say that when you look at Tate’s running ability, he’s maybe a little bit quicker than J.T. J.T. was a little bit thicker, stronger, really good running skill. Joe is kind of more like that. He’s a big, strong guy. He’s worked great in the weight room. So when you defend Joe, he can run, he can throw, he can do a bunch of things. He’s got the versatility that way, so that’s good. And Dwayne is a good enough runner to get himself out of trouble, a gifted passer.”
Day and Meyer and the rest of the offensive coaching staff will adjust the offense to suit the quarterbacks. There will always be constants, however. This is always going to be Urban Meyer’s offense and there will always be elements of the quarterback run. That will never change.
What will also not be changing is what they are looking for in their starting quarterback. Martell, Burrow, and Haskins can all throw it well enough to start and run it well enough to win. In the end, however, it will still come down to the same thing it always comes down to in football.
“Those are their skill sets, but who can move the team down the field? Who can be a leader and someone the guys rally around?” Day said. “Those types of things are really what we’re focused on right now.”