COLUMBUS — After Dwayne Haskins’ performance at Michigan in November, the popular assumption was the redshirt sophomore would be Ohio State’s clear-cut starter at quarterback in 2018.
Redshirt junior Joe Burrow was among the people who thought it might be Haskins’ job to lose, but head coach Urban Meyer and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day promised Burrow the spring competition would be a fair chance.
That was true all the way through Ohio State’s spring game Saturday, as the pair split time running the Buckeyes’ first-team offense.
“I was a little apprehensive about it in December, and coach Meyer and coach Day assured me that it would be even,” Burrow said. “I was very happy with how they handled it.”
Now, Ohio State’s most important offseason decision looms.
Burrow had the better performance in the game by going 15-for-22 for 238 yards and two touchdown passes, while Haskins finished 9-for-19 with 120 yards and two touchdown passes.
Regardless of what happened, Haskins still has the more significant game experience, and the Buckeyes end the spring thinking multiple quarterbacks on their roster are legitimate starters.
But that is not how quarterback works.
“You can only have one guy play,” Burrow said. “You can be a really good quarterback and still sit on the bench, so that’s the nature of the position.”
Meyer said after the game that no decision has been made, and OSU’s coaches will take the rest of the weekend to think about their options before meeting Monday and Tuesday.
Ohio State’s seventh-year coach said he will evaluate all the information the team has before making a decision.
“I want to see all the data: everything we did all spring,” Meyer said, adding the decision will be made based upon “what’s best for Ohio State and what’s best for those players.”
Ohio State has three distinct choices among its quarterback. Redshirt freshman Tate Martell is the best runner but remains unlikely to beat Haskins and Burrow. Haskins has the biggest arm; Burrow is the most veteran and has improved steadily.
Despite the battle, Haskins said it remains important for the trio to stay close.
“We’re all fighting for the same thing and we all know that,” Haskins said. “The biggest thing for us is being friends at the end of the day. As a football team you need to have the guy, but the quarterback room is very important, and everyone has to be friends with each other even though it’s hard to be.”
Burrow, unlike Haskins or Martell, has the option of transferring without penalty this spring. He will graduate from OSU after this summer and could transfer as a graduate student with two years of eligibility remaining.
If OSU opts to start Haskins, Burrow said he would not necessarily transfer.
“It would be really hard for me to leave,” Burrow said. “I’ve put so much into this. I’ve put my heart and soul into it. If I were to leave, it would be pretty devastating for me. But at the same time, I would understand how [the coaches] went.”
Despite Ohio State’s efforts to stage an equitable quarterback derby this spring, Burrow always was the slight underdog to start for the Buckeyes in the fall.
But the junior took his best shot during the spring. After Saturday, he hopes his body of work will be enough to earn the starting role.
“I’ve heard for three years that I’m never going to play here, I’m going to end up transferring, I’m not good enough to play here,” Burrow said. “I just sit back and put my nose to the grindstone and work, and that’s what I’ve done for three years. I think I’ve come a long way.”
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