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Ohio State has another chance Saturday to evaluate quarterbacks (from left) Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell.

Ohio State football: Spring game must count in Buckeyes quarterback battle

Austin Ward

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Ohio State has had other high-profile quarterback battles, but this might be one of the most fascinating showdowns when it comes to the spring game. Even when Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett were dueling it out a couple years ago only one of them was healthy enough to put on a show in the annual exhibition. And since Urban Meyer often has talked about the value of seeing his players perform in front of huge crowds at the Horseshoe, and the competition has been close throughout camp, then it stands to reason that Saturday should carry weight in the evaluation process for Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell.

Now, it’s difficult to figure out exactly how much emphasis Meyer will put on the spring game — or how much would even be appropriate for such a setting. This is, after all, just one workout of 15 this spring and there have already been scrimmages in camp that are more game-like than anything that will be on public display this weekend. There is no reason to doubt Meyer when he says there is no clear leader in the race, and assuming that’s true the spring game could wind up applying pressure to the decision from outside the program.

Ohio State-Urban Meyer-Ohio State Buckeyes-Ohio State football-quarterback battle-spring game
Urban Meyer is waiting for one of his quarterbacks to step forward and claim the starting job. (Ryan Donnelly/Land of 10)

If, for example, one of those three passers puts on an absolute clinic with the fan base watching it live and even more tuning in on television, that will be the lasting memory heading into the offseason. That would be the guy getting all the buzz and expectations heaped on his shoulders since it would be all that anybody without an access card to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center would have seen. So what if it isn’t Dwayne Haskins, who has been the presumptive favorite since the moment he polished off a comeback victory on the road in The Game last November?

Meyer has been in this business long enough to make tough decisions and handle criticism, so he’s surely not going to be deterred from making the best choice for the Buckeyes no matter what happens in one scrimmage. And ideally, he’s not going to rush a decision in a competition he would like to see continue into training camp, where he’ll have more snaps, throws and information at his disposal. But if he’s pointed to this exhibition in the past as a valuable experience and learning opportunity, this would have to be viewed as a meaningful data point.

In the end, yes, it’s only one. But since Ohio State hasn’t been able to settle on a pecking order, public perception is going to be shaped by how those guys handle themselves in the spring game.

How significant are the stakes? Only Meyer can answer that, but they absolutely look like they should be real.

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