COLUMBUS, Ohio — Everyone involved in the Ohio State quarterback battle is saying the right things. Take, for instance, this explanation from quarterbacks coach Ryan Day on Thursday.
“Whoever is playing best is going to play,” Day said. “So no, no it’s not just a two-person race. Whoever is out there moving the team down the field is going to play, so obviously the guys are out there working and competing. There’s nothing predetermined, there’s nobody who has been the starter like J.T. [Barrett] has been in the past. This is a competition, just like anywhere else who doesn’t have a quarterback coming back. These guys have to earn everything they get.”
With that being said, it’s not hard to look at the cleanest solution as also the most likely outcome. Dwayne Haskins is the favorite to take the first snap under center in 2018. He has a big arm, and he also has valuable in-game experience after leading Ohio State to a win at Michigan in November.
His victory would probably lead Joe Burrow to pursue a graduate transfer, but it wouldn’t preclude redshirt freshman Tate Martell from seeing the field for Ohio State in occasional packages. (In fact, Haskins’ victory would help Martell’s cause if it chased Burrow.) As far as quarterback races go, that’s about as tidy as it gets.
It’s less clear what would happen if Burrow wins the job, but it’s likely that at least one of the other quarterbacks would transfer. The disaster scenario from a depth chart perspective would be if Martell won the job outright. Young players starting at quarterback is a transfer generator, and Martell winning the job could send both older quarterbacks looking elsewhere. As such, it only felt fair to ask Martell if he feels he’s getting a fair shake in the quarterback competition.
“I would hope the coaches pick the best player out of the three,” Martell said. “Regardless of who it is, I would hope the coaches pick the best player out of the three of us. If you want to win a national championship, you put the best player out there.”
Whether that happens remains to be seen, but the quarterbacks said they’re all splitting reps in practice and got a sense that the fight they’re waging right now is a fair one. Day also dismissed the idea that Haskins might have an edge because of his performance against the Wolverines last season.
“He did a nice job in that game, but this is a new year and so these guys have to come out and compete,” Day said. “Just like anything else, it’s what have you done for me lately? He’s got to improve and prove himself to be the starter just like the other guys.”
Ultimately, a fair shot to be Ohio State’s next starting quarterback is all Martell is asking for.
“I was hoping that after a guy left that was here like J.T. that there would be an open competition,” he said. “Like I said [after the Cotton Bowl], I didn’t come here to sit on the bench.”