Ohio State’s 2018 quarterback battle didn’t even have the courtesy of waiting for 2018 to make its presence felt.
When J.T. Barrett went down with a meniscus injury against Michigan, the three candidates for the 2018 job – Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell – became options for coach Urban Meyer.
With the Buckeyes up 21-20, Haskins received the call and went 6-of-7 for 94 yards with an additional 24 rushing yards on three carries. The performance helped OSU to a 31-20 victory, and it gave Haskins enough of a résumé to put him at the front of the pack for the start of the 2018 season.
There are caveats. Burrow had been set back earlier in the season by a broken bone in his hand, so he could be more of a factor if healthy the entire spring and fall camp. (That is assuming he doesn’t transfer.)
Even more interesting, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson admitted the coaches were tempted to play Martell even though doing so would have cost him his redshirt and thus an entire season’s eligibility. In addition, Martell had spent the entire week leading up the rivalry game simulating Michigan running back Karan Higdon on the scout team.
That Martell was even in the discussion indicates Haskins is not going to run away with the job. That’s not his forte, anyway. It’s Martell who is the explosive runner. He rushed for 1,257 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior at powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, and he was praised repeatedly by his Buckeyes teammates for his elusiveness in practice last fall.
Three of the Buckeyes’ first four games in 2018 will be against teams that failed to make a bowl in 2017. The lone exception is TCU. Because the Buckeyes have a chance to ease into the season, it likely means we see two quarterbacks early.
Meyer inherited Braxton Miller as his starting quarterback when he arrived at Ohio State in 2012, so there really has only been one quarterback battle during the Meyer era. It played out over two seasons, as Barrett and Cardale Jones continually traded spots on the depth chart.
The 2018 season could play out in similar ways to the beginning of 2015. The big arm with the big win to his name will get the early nod. What we really need to watch out for is how quickly the mobile backup makes gains.