COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State may want to pump the brakes on the Dwayne Haskins hype train, but it might be too late now.
Whatever controversy there might have been at the backup quarterback spot seems like it could be put to rest. And while there is still no consideration even remotely being paid to replacing J.T. Barrett in the present, the future looks like it’s going to belong to the rocket-armed redshirt freshman who got his first extended opportunity to show what he could do on Saturday at the Horseshoe.
Even on a day that included 5 touchdown passes from the most prolific player in Big Ten history in a 54-21 win over UNLV, Haskins still effectively wound up stealing the show. If it’s possible, the buzz about his potential is only louder now — though coach Urban Meyer was prepared with a bit of cold water to splash on any suggestion Barrett’s seat might be warming.
“I think Dwayne played pretty good,” Meyer said. “But that [interception] is inexcusable. Throw it right to the guy.
“Obviously, it’s a young player. He’s a freshman, and they’ve got to go through that.”
The Buckeyes can deal with the growing pains when they’re crushing an overmatched opponent such as UNLV. They’re also surely going to tolerate them when the only bad throw is accompanied by 15 impressive completions, 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first chance to lead the attack for more than just a mop-up drive.
Make no mistake: Barrett provided that opportunity because he was so remarkably efficient carving up the Rebels. Other than 1 overthrown pass on a deep ball, Barrett’s accuracy was on point, his decision-making was as steady as usual and he had helped build a 37-point lead by the middle of the second quarter. Ohio State’s offense is building some momentum, and Barrett is still the unquestioned leader of that attack.
He’s also a senior, and at the end of the year Barrett is officially going to have to pass the torch to his replacement. Joe Burrow returned to the lineup and briefly appeared late in the fourth quarter despite not being fully healthy after breaking his right hand in training camp, and he shouldn’t be written out of Ohio State’s plans yet. But Haskins is making the most of his chances to prove he can be The Guy down the road — or sooner, if the Buckeyes happen to need him.
“God forbid [Barrett] got hurt, but I feel like I have a great camaraderie with my teammates, whether that’s with the ones, twos or threes,” Haskins said. “I feel like we’re all close, so even if something did happen to J.T. — God forbid — I feel like would be pretty comfortable.
“I just want to go out there and play, so [Meyer] knows that if I come in the game, he’ll be confident in me. Whether that’s running the ball, throwing the ball, handing the ball, [run-pass options], whatever it is he wants me to do, he has full confidence in me to go do it.”
The faith in Haskins is seemingly growing after he got experience in the last two games, and it won’t be shaken all that much even after he was given his first lesson in the dangers of throwing late and to the outside of the field.
That pass was picked off and returned for a touchdown even by a defense as porous as UNLV’s, so it clearly wouldn’t be good enough against Penn State or Michigan. Of course, the Buckeyes weren’t playing a top-10 opponent on Saturday and won’t again until the last week of October, so Haskins is still largely untested despite his growing body of work.
But it doesn’t take a stout defense lined up against Haskins to see the strength of his arm. Regardless of the talent in the opposing secondary, Haskins still has to make the right reads and deliver the ball confidently, which he did most of the time. The Buckeyes also don’t just hand out game reps to quarterbacks for no reason, so no matter what the score was, there’s significance in when Haskins got on the field and how long he stayed there.
“I definitely feel like I’ve got a couple good snaps now under my belt,” Haskins said. “Last week was a little weird getting in for the first time. After I got my first series in this game, I kind of felt like I was in the flow of the game now.
“J.T. is the guy. But if I do go in the game, I’ll be ready for it.”
Something unexpected still would have to happen for Haskins to get that shot as a starter at the moment. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that eventually a lot more snaps are in his future.