ARLINGTON, Texas — Ready or not, the future is here for Ohio State. What remains to be seen is what exactly it will hold.
Fifth-year senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who rewrote the Ohio State record book but also led an offense that struggled often enough to rankle fans, played his final collegiate game on Friday. The question now is whether the offense will look any different with a new quarterback at the helm.
In big games, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer has relied on the quarterback run when things got tight. That led to victories more often than not, but it rarely opened up the offense in a way that allowed Ohio State to run away from opponents.
The best bet for a different look would be for Dwayne Haskins to win the starting job. Haskins is a completely different type of quarterback than Barrett, much more similar to strong-armed Cardale Jones than to the elusive Texan. Ohio State showed when Barrett went down in 2014 that it’s possible to change the offense to mold it around a bomber instead of someone who excels in the ground game.
Haskins showed a mix of accuracy and power this season, completing 40 of 57 passes for 565 yards, with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. His 70.2 completion percentage was the best on the team. After Barrett went down against Michigan, Haskins helped lead the Buckeyes to a rivalry-game win.
“I just feel like I’m a very elite passer,” Haskins said in the Ohio State locker room after the Cotton Bowl. “I can make a lot of throws and do things not everybody can do.”
While Haskins’ arm should be enough to make some changes, it’s also worth noting that he’s not a natural runner who can carry the ball 15 times a game the way Barrett did when Meyer was leaning on him. If Joe Burrow or Tate Martell were to win the job over Haskins, the offense is much more likely to look similar to how it did under Barrett. Both are mobile quarterbacks who probably could have success doing some of the same things Barrett excelled at.
Perhaps the biggest question mark other than which quarterback will win the job and what style of play that will lead to is whether there will be any philosophical changes from the staff. Though there have been exceptions, it feels like the offense has slowly but steadily become more conservative since 2015. Even the arrival of new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson didn’t prevent the Buckeyes from going into a shell with a lead against top opponents.
As Marcus Hartman of the Dayton Daily News noted, the Ohio State offense has been downright Tressellian at times the last two years.
Meyer has got to get it over with and go to the sweater vest next year. Make the transformation official
— Marcus Hartman (@marcushartman) December 30, 2017
Barrett’s best weapons — his legs — were also at times a crutch for the Ohio State offensive staff. Haskins is the safest bet to reverse that, but he still has to win the job.