Tate Martell, Dwayne Haskins: Frustrating Balance At Quarterback

Ohio State football quarterback Tate Martell

There’s an old saying in business that a good compromise leaves everyone angry.

So perhaps it’s also true in football that a good quarterback rotation leaves everyone frustrated. If so, the Buckeyes are definitely on to something.

In the last week, head coach Urban Meyer has used the word “frustrated” to describe backup Tate Martell’s mood, and Dwayne Haskins said “it’s a little frustrating” to have to come off the field in certain situations and have Martell replace him.

It’s always a delicate juggling act to keep multiple quarterbacks happy with playing time, especially when both think they belong on the field in big moments.

Martell hasn’t spoken with the media since September, but back in the spring, he was very open about his expectations.

“I didn’t come here to sit on the bench,” he told reporters back in April.

And Martell isn’t the only one who thinks Martell should be playing more.

The Buckeyes have struggled in the red zone this season, ranking 122nd in FBS in the percentage of red zone possessions that end in points.

They’ve been inside the opponent’s 20 on 46 occasions this year. Of those, 13 have ended with rushing touchdowns, 14 with passing scores, 8 with field goals, and 12 with nothing.

For all his passing prowess, Haskins is not a serious threat to run in the red zone, which has made OSU’s offense bog down in those close quarters.

The solution seemed obvious to many: if you can’t run in the red zone without a running quarterback, then put in your running quarterback.

Saturday against Michigan State, Martell came in with the Buckeyes facing 1st-and-goal at the 6, and immediately picked up 5 yards on a counter play. Then, he jogged off the field and Haskins came back in.

The 2nd down rushing play got stuffed, but Haskins hit Parris Campbell on a little touch pass to score on the next play.

On the FOX broadcast, analyst Joel Klatt said there was a good case for the redshirt freshman to play more in the red zone.

“If you’re going to run it down there, you might as well do it with Martell. He doesn’t have to carry the ball, but watch this: you just get crashes from the outside because there’s no threat of the quarterback pulling the ball and running it on the outside (with Haskins). At least if that was Martell on the handoff, they would have to account for him in the run game,” Klatt said.

Meyer said that based on what he saw from Martell, the redshirt freshman would play more often in situations like that.

“First of all, he’s a good player. Give him a 5 (out of 5) on the competitor scale. He’s an elite competitor. He’s worked his you know what off. And I do see that,” Meyer said.

Haskins has also seen growth from his backup this season.

“He’s always been a competitor,” Haskins said. “I know that when you get to the games, he’s taking the things he’s learned from me, learned from J.T. (Barrett) and he wants to try to compete out there. I’m proud of the progress he’s made.”

Like Martell, Haskins is very competitive player. He doesn’t want to come off the field so close to the end zone, or in other key spots during the game.

‘It’s a little hard, but it’s for the betterment of the offense so there’s a package we have that the coaches feel like we need to run, so I can’t complain about that. But it’s a little frustrating,” Haskins said.

2 Responses

  1. There are some wild leaps of illogic in the article:

    1) Haskins’ lack of running has NOT caused the offense to bog down in close quarters. It’s been a combo of poor scheme (calling RPO’s when no “R” exists in the first place) and poor blocking (magnified by there not being enough blockers).

    2) The “solution” could also be using an extra “tight end” or “fullback” (the coaches may need to consult their glossaries for those terms, the positions are real though) from a power set rather than a pistol/shotgun set (which I now call the ‘failure” set for short yardage gains.)

    Bottom line: regardless of QB choice- and I like them both- the formations MUST give the QB or RB a chance in the first place. Of course, our head coach says they “don’t have time to practice” revolutionary football concepts like taking snaps from under center, which makes this a hell of a lot more difficult than it should be.

    1. Excellent observations, Longtime. Might I add that back in the pre-history of Ohio State football there was a coach named Hayes who used to run what he called a “jumbo package” for just such situations.
      Further there’s this simple truth: other “passing” QBs are very effective in near the goal line. Other “running” QBs are successful away from the red zone. If your QB isn’t successful it isn’t because they’re one type of QB or the other, it’s because your scheme sucks at being able to utilize them when defenses think they know what to expect and/or your offensive line leaves something to be desired.

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