COLUMBUS, Ohio — The beauty for Ohio State is there is no wrong decision.
The unfortunate reality is that it will still have to make one, and the time has arrived for the Buckeyes to make hard choices.
If Urban Meyer wanted to sneak in the spring game on Saturday before the rain started falling at the Horseshoe hoping for some sort of sign about who should be his next quarterback, he didn’t get it from a scrimmage that prominently featured the ability of all three of his options.
But he might be able to rest comfortably knowing that no matter what, Ohio State is going to wind up with a starter more than capable of leading the program to another Big Ten title.
“We have to make some decisions,” Meyer said. “Those decisions have not been made. …. You’ve got Joe Burrow and Dwayne [Haskins] competing right now along with Tate [Martell], so we’re just going to have to [sit down] next week.
“I’m going to take the weekend off, we’ve got recruiting and that, but on Monday and Tuesday we’re going to have some very good meetings, productive meetings. I want to see all the statistical data, because we have charted everything and then we’ll go from there.”
Where exactly will those numbers, intangibles and gut instincts lead the Buckeyes over the next couple days? It’s almost impossible to know for sure at this point, especially since all three made compelling cases with their last snaps before the summer.
Burrow was impressive in command of the offense and put up the best numbers in the glorified game of two-hand touch, completing 15 of his 22 attempts for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Haskins was inconsistent with his accuracy overall, but he put his big arm on display with a couple of pinpoint deep strikes — including a 25-yard laser for a touchdown to Jaylen Harris. And Martell’s dual-threat ability was equally hard to ignore, officially getting credited with 69 rushing yards that could have easily been doubled if defenders had to actually try to tackle the elusive weapon.
As far as Choose Your Own Adventures go, it helps that Ohio State knows that any path it picks with those quarterbacks could lead back to the College Football Playoff. But that won’t make the next few days easy for the Buckeyes considering the stakes with Burrow’s ability to graduate and transfer hanging over everything.
“I would say now it’s a lot less stressful than actually being in the competition,” Burrow said. “Now you can kind of just sit back and relax, you know the body of work that you had and I know I played very well and took a big step forward as a leader as well. I can just take a step back and see how it plays out.
“I came here to play. I didn’t come here to sit on the bench for four years, and I know I’m a pretty darn good quarterback. And I want to play somewhere.”
Make no mistake: Burrow is good enough to be a winner without needing to change his address. Ordinarily that would be a tremendous relief for the Buckeyes to know a potential backup has that kind of ability, but this isn’t a typical situation.
Ohio State has stressed there is no clear-cut leader in the race to replace J.T. Barrett. That was reinforced by the way it rotated Burrow and Haskins from the opening drive of the game and the fact that all three played with the first-team offense. And in a best-case scenario, Ohio State would be able to keep all three of them and stage one more open competition for the vacant starting job in training camp.
“I hope so,” Meyer said when asked about keeping them all. “I’m just going to leave it there. I hope so.”
Just how likely might that scenario be? Truthfully, that’s a long-shot bet.
Ohio State has been blessed since Meyer arrived that it hasn’t had to deal with the defections at that all-important position that have become commonplace among quarterbacks in college football. Particularly when there’s a depth chart as loaded as this one. And if it were as easy as just letting them all play, the Buckeyes would sign up for that.
“That would be ideal for everybody,” Burrow said. “But that’s the nature of the quarterback position — you can only have one guy play.
“You can be a really good quarterback but still sit on the bench.”
Ohio State has two extra guys who fit that bill right now. But how much longer will that be the case? What will it do if it does hang on to all of those candidates?
The verdict should arrive shortly, and then Ohio State can turn the page to prepare for the fall. One way or another, the Buckeyes appear to have three different quarterbacks capable of providing a happy ending.
Now they just have to figure out if they will all be around for it.