Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins woke up this morning as the leader of the Ohio State football program, and that’s a whole lot to wake up to.
Competing for a job is one thing, but the reality of owning that job begins a brand new stress.
With Joe Burrow’s transfer on Tuesday, Haskins is now the not-quite-yet-undisputed starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. Tate Martell will still throw his hat back into the ring in fall camp, but for now, this Buckeye team is under the swathful arm of Dwayne Haskins.
To Haskins’ credit, he said in the spring that until he was told differently, he believed he was the starting quarterback, and that’s how he was going to operate.
But today is a new day because there is no more question. There can be no doubt in Haskins’ mind. Ohio State can’t afford it.
The Ohio State offense is going to live or die with Dwayne Haskins. Anybody can think they’re ready when they’re fighting for something, but once you win, then the job truly begins.
Haskins has been doing what the starting quarterback needs to be doing, but now he’ll be doing it with the weight of the football program on his shoulders.
There could also be a freedom to this as well. Haskins is no longer attached to Joe Burrow. He is now a solo act, free to reform this Buckeye offense into his own vision. Or at least as much as the OSU coaches are willing to allow it.
Now he can focus on his connection with the team and his receivers, rather than wondering if Joe Burrow is doing something right now that he should also be doing.
Dwayne Haskins learned how to lead this program from J.T. Barrett, who Urban Meyer would probably call the best leader he’s ever had at Ohio State. If there is a model to copy, Haskins can’t beat Barrett’s will, drive, and pull. Barrett’s teammates fought for him, fought with him, and followed his example. Now Haskins provides the example to follow and he will have to continue showing his teammates that he knows where he’s going.
This was the direction the Ohio State offense was heading anyway. In the winter, Haskins was spoken of as the likely starting quarterback. Players spoke openly about the changes in the offense that they were looking forward to, so this should be a very happy marriage. Less running of the quarterback, more running of the tailbacks, a more effective downfield passing game, and an offense that can win the final two games of the year against the best defenses the Buckeyes will see.
This isn’t the 2015 offense with Ed Warinner and Tim Beck. Cardale Jones won’t be looking over his shoulder and J.T. Barrett won’t be trying to be more like Cardale Jones. This is the 2018 offense with Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson. It’s a huge difference.
The 2015 offense was like off-roading with a Ferrari. The 2018 Ohio State offense is the open road with nothing but blue skies ahead.
At least in a perfect world.
The Buckeyes have two proven running backs, more experience at receiver than perhaps anybody else in the nation, tight ends who littered the tops of the recruiting rankings, and an offensive line that is deep, but with much to prove.
In other words, there is enough here to work with for Dwayne Haskins.
This could be the offense Buckeye fans wanted to see following the glimpses at the end of the 2014 season.
Haskins will surely open up the field, but don’t forget that the 2014 team had the best deep threat Urban Meyer’s ever had, the best blocking receiver Meyer has ever had, and a receiver in Michael Thomas who is currently making the NFL look pretty damn easy.
That offense wasn’t just Cardale Jones. And it wasn’t just Ezekiel Elliott. It was everyone.
The potential is there for this offense to be similar.
The Buckeyes don’t need “best-in-school-history” levels of wide receiver because “Ohio State-caliber” will suffice.
Regardless of who is quarterbacking this team, their job is to distribute the football. The running game should be fine, and the passing game will be able to threaten every inch of the football field. But those threats can’t be empty.
Today is a new day for Dwayne Haskins and Ohio State football.
And his coaches are banking on him being ready for it.