ARLINGTON, Texas — In the locker room after Ohio State’s 24-7 win against USC in the Cotton Bowl, the most-popular player from an interview standpoint was someone who didn’t play a single snap in 2017.
Tate Martell, the heralded quarterback recruit who redshirted, spent a large portion of the 30-minute interview period surrounded by reporters curious about his first season in Columbus and his thoughts on what’s next.
A short walk over, the heir apparent at quarterback was also holding court. Dwayne Haskins is viewed by many as the favorite to start for Ohio State next season, especially after replacing an injured J.T. Barrett and leading the Buckeyes to a comeback win at Michigan. He made perfectly clear that he views himself as the most-likely candidate to win the job and will approach the spring as such.
“I’m going to attack it as though I’m the guy and I’m the starter,” Haskins said.
Such is his right. Haskins has the experience edge and spent the past season as Barrett’s primary backup after Joe Burrow suffered a hand injury during fall camp and missed the first few weeks of the season. Haskins has shined when he’s been given a chance and looked great against the Wolverines. Coming in on the road with the Buckeyes trailing, he completed 6 of 7 passes for 94 yards as Ohio State rallied for a 31-20 win.
But confidence is ubiquitous in quarterbacks, and Martell has plenty of his own. Though he knows he’s playing from behind from an experience standpoint, he has the starting job in his sights just as much as Haskins does.
“I mean, what else would I want?” he said. “I didn’t come here to sit on the bench.”
Martell has drawn rave reviews from teammates throughout the season for his ability to help the defense prepare for opponents. Sometimes that meant playing other skill positions such as running back, but Martell was willing to do it all to show what he can offer.
“Tate Martell has been doing an awesome job as our scout-team quarterback,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said after a Cotton Bowl practice. “Every day he brings his all to try to give us a look. He’s having fun out there. He just loves the game of football. Sometimes he outruns us or does some crazy stuff that makes you say, ‘Wow.’ ”
His audition to do it in games instead of practice begins now.