COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dwayne Haskins’ arm is every bit as strong as advertised.
The Ohio State backup quarterback seemingly had no trouble coming off the bench Saturday and marching the offense right down the field and into scoring position.
And for somebody getting the first snaps of his career, the redshirt freshman didn’t look fazed stepping out into the bright lights at the Horseshoe.
Now the Buckeyes have a sample size of work with which to evaluate Haskins, which is exactly what coach Urban Meyer wanted going into the matchup with Army last weekend. No matter how small the body of work might still be — or relatively low-stress the situation might have been with a win already clinched late in the fourth quarter — that’s an important first step.
So what does it mean for the Buckeyes and a quarterback unit that is always under the microscope? Well, at least in the short term, it doesn’t change anything. The future, though, might be another matter entirely.
“I thought [Haskins] played very well,” Meyer said. “I wanted to let him keep going but that was my call — I don’t want to score at the end there in that game. And Joe [Burrow] is about ready to come back. So we’ve got to make some decisions who is the first one in there.
“Last year was very important to get Joe in the game and he did pretty well when he was in there as well. So, that is so important for the backup quarterback spot.”
A change at the top still isn’t even up for debate at Ohio State. And with J.T. Barrett responding to the rough outing against Oklahoma by taking advantage of a revamped game plan — and by becoming the most productive touchdown-producing player in Big Ten history — the calls for a change outside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center should have quieted a bit, anyway.
Haskins, though, got his much-anticipated chance to show what he could do late in the fourth quarter. If Barrett’s steady outing solidified his standing as Ohio State’s No. 1 option at the most important position on the field, at a minimum the mop-up duty for Haskins offered a glimpse at the potential he provides down the road.
And a perfect drive that included 4-of-4 passing for 46 yards before Meyer pulled the plug suggests Haskins could be ready to unleash his rocket-powered right arm sooner than that if needed for some reason.
“Quick release, too,” Meyer said. “I thought he did very well when he got in there since those were his first snaps, I believe.
“I wanted to throw him more, but you just didn’t want to do something silly.”
The Buckeyes also weren’t looking to run up the score on a service academy. But that had to be balanced with the need to get Haskins some live snaps when there are only so many games on the schedule.
So, Haskins got to zip a slant to C.J. Saunders on his second play. He was turned loose to flash his velocity on a throw to the outside of the field to Austin Mack. He was accurate on the move with a designed rollout that ended with a strike to Trevon Grimes, and he tacked on one more bullet to Binjimen Victor on a slant before he ran out the clock.
Army likely was tired after dealing with a far more talented roster for nearly four quarters. The defensive schemes at that point might have been less aggressive. The pressure of delivering likely was scaled back, even if Haskins might have been feeling some in his first taste of action. But that doesn’t diminish what Haskins did when the stats were actually being entered into Ohio State’s record book.
And it will surely be part of the decision-making process for Meyer. A lack of experience now is less of a factor than it was, and the Buckeyes don’t have to rely solely on evaluations of Haskins from the practice field. The battle between Haskins and Burrow has significant long-term implications.
“Much more value [than practice],” Meyer said. “There wasn’t as much pressure, and I’ve done that before where you put a guy in in the second quarter of a game.
“We’re not at that point yet. But you’d like to do that.”
Either way, Haskins has had a chance to dip his toes into the water with the Buckeyes.
Now with one eye on the future and another on making sure Ohio State’s quarterback situation is settled in the present, Meyer might start looking to find a way to hold those feet to the fire.