If you are going to play for a national championship in today’s college football, you’ve got to be able to throw the ball.
Just look at the teams who have matched up in each of the finals of the five College Football Playoffs.
Cardale Jones, Marcus Mariota, Deshaun Watson, Tua Tagovailoa, and Trevor Lawrence have all gotten their teams there, and each of them did it with the help of their respective throwing shoulders.
Leading up to the College Football Playoff semifinal in 2016 between Ohio State and Clemson, members of the Tigers defense openly talked about their lack of concerns for OSU’s offense.
In the two games prior to the playoff matchup, Buckeye quarterback JT Barrett completed 10-of-22 passes for 86 yards against Michigan State and 15-of-32 passes for 124 yards against Michigan. Both were wins, but you can see why Clemson was feeling their oats.
The Tigers ended up beating Ohio State 31-0, holding the Buckeyes to just 127 yards passing. After the game, Urban Meyer said that this would never happen again, and so far it hasn’t.
Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson were brought in and they brought a passing game with them.
Barrett responded in 2017 with one of the greatest individual seasons in OSU history, but the team fell short of their playoff goals.
The passing game was better, but Barrett still threw four interceptions in the loss at Iowa, and completed just 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards in two-and-a-half quarters against Michigan before being replaced by Dwayne Haskins.
It didn’t take long watching Haskins in 2018 to realize that he was much, much different than Barrett. For the first time since Cardale Jones in 2014, there was a quarterback at Ohio State that could make the best secondaries sweat.
The Buckeyes had a quarterback who could throw the ball well enough to win a national championship.
Unfortunately for Haskins, the OSU defense didn’t cooperate.
With Haskins off to the NFL, there is a job opening at Ohio State, and whoever wins that job will have the OSU offense molded to his abilities — but the needs will remain the same.
“As we move forward with our new quarterback, we figure out what he does best, we’ll emphasize that,” head coach Ryan Day said. “There are certain thing that will stay consistent. We believe we have to throw the ball to be able to win, whether it’s a two-minute drill in the Penn State game with J.T. or the two-minute drill we did with Dwayne towards the end of the season. That’s part of it.”
Regardless of who wins the job, the offense will remain the same. At least in relative terms.
“The offense that we ran with JT and the offense we ran with Dwayne is still the same offense,” Day said. “What I mean by that is the plays are still the plays, the playbook is the playbook. What plays we emphasize is based on the quarterback, always has been. The other part of it is, who is the best 11? Does it mean there’s an extra tight end, extra running back in the game. How does that fit?”
So while everyone will be looking at the quarterback, he is still going to be a product of those players around him. Dwayne Haskins had a bunch of talented veteran receivers to throw to, so he and Day utilized them.
This year, they’ll need to find new parts of the offense to utilize.
“Each year we’ll put the best guys up on the board, figure out who they are, how does that match with what the quarterback can do. What makes him special?” Day said. “Clearly what made Dwayne special last year was his ability to throw in the pocket, especially downfield, his accuracy. What made J.T. special was his combination of being able to throw, run. He could do a great job in short yardage situations, durable, great decision maker, took care of the ball, excellent in the red zone.”
Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin are two very different quarterbacks, but they are both fighting to run the same offense. And despite their differences, they will both have to be able to throw the ball very, very well if the Buckeyes are going to reach their ultimate goal in 2019.
“If you want to go win the whole thing, you have to be able to throw the ball,” Day said. “That showed in the last two semifinals and the finals the last couple years. To win the national championship, you have to be able to throw it.”
But before Buckeye fans get worried about Ohio State turning into Texas Tech, Day hasn’t forgotten where he is.
“Again, all that being said, you can’t get anywhere at Ohio State if you’re not running the football,” he said. “That will always be a priority here. Finding the right balance is critical.”