COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dwayne Haskins needed targets to throw with, and his Ohio State teammates weren’t around on spring break.
Instead, Haskins had to settle for maybe the best wide receiver in the NFL and some of his buddies during what could have been his time to relax in Miami.
Thanks to his childhood connection with Mohamed Sanu of the Atlanta Falcons, Haskins was able to find some wideouts while in Florida. Instead of chilling on the beach, Haskins wound up in the middle of some intense workouts that included Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown.
“He was pushing me, pushing himself,” Haskins said. “It was a lot of fun. Every opportunity I can get better, I take that.
“Whether that’s with an NFL receiver or my guys right here in college, I want to be able to better myself and be able get to the next level. And by me going to spring break, and not only experiencing Miami but working out, that just helps me out.”
There is no time to waste at this point in the development process for Haskins now that Ohio State needs a new starting quarterback and all signs point to the sophomore as the likely heir to J.T. Barrett’s throne.
At this point in spring practice, the Buckeyes are insisting that a three-man competition is wide open with Haskins battling Joe Burrow and Tate Martell. But given the way Haskins played last season while leading a comeback in the rivalry victory over Michigan, it’s hard to shake the idea that he entered March as the leader in that race. But clearly Haskins isn’t taking that for granted, since he didn’t even really allow himself to relax much during vacation.
Ohio State sophomore QB Dwayne Haskins (@dh_simba7) spent his spring break in South Florida throwing absolute bombs to Steelers star WR Antonio Brown (@AB84) on the beach. https://t.co/OzpTvJ2JnI (via @alexpressplay) #Buckeyes pic.twitter.com/xXAILYhR2e
— Garrett Stepien (@GarrettStepien) March 15, 2018
“I basically call Mohamed Sanu my uncle because we grew up together,” Haskins said. “I knew him, he was down there, so I called him and we worked out. It’s grueling. From the first rep to the last rep, everything is 100 miles per hour. Really calculated, they have a plan to everything they do and that’s how I want to be with my offense.
“Now, what can I do to bring this NFL atmosphere, this NFL work ethic to my offense?”
The main expectation at this point is that Ohio State is looking for an NFL-caliber arm to help take the passing attack to another level, and Haskins certainly appears to have one based on what he’s already shown in limited work off the bench.
That sample size, of course, is still small. And that’s just one reason why nothing is being conceded to Haskins at this point in the year and offensive coordinator Ryan Day is pumping the brakes on anybody trying to compare his skills to anybody at the next level.
“I wish I could tell you right now, and maybe we’ll have a better idea at the end of spring or toward preseason,” Day said. “But it’s just so early in this process. I mean, it’s easy when you’re the backup and throwing 7-on-7 and nobody is running around your legs and you’re throwing and catching and everything looks great.
“When you’re in the fire and there are guys coming at you and you have to work through stuff, that’s a whole different story. Once we get into those situations, more of the live drill with pads on, we’ll have a better idea.”
Throwing down on South Beach also doesn’t come with exactly that kind of pressure.
But it’s certainly more demanding with Brown wanting accurate passes thrown his way. And it’s way more stressful than just hanging out in a cabana, which is a good sign for Ohio State that Haskins is aware of how much work it takes to win the starting job — and a bunch of games after that.
“It was unbelievable, just because [Brown’s] work ethic, he works so hard,” Haskins said. “I would just ask Antonio, ‘I’m throwing a fade to you, how do you want it?’ I like to hear that feedback.
“I mean, if I threw a bad pass, they’re going to let you know.”
That’s going to be the case with the Ohio State coaching staff back on campus now, too.
And with the stakes this high, Haskins can use any edge he can find. Even on spring break.