Meteoric rise of Dwayne Haskins changed everything at Ohio State

Austin Wardover 2 years
Aritcle written by:Austin WardAustin Ward


Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins by Birm

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Dwayne Haskins and the future at quarterback for Ohio State? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Ohio State took the correct path.

It just wasn’t as long as it expected it would be with Dwayne Haskins.

Certainly getting only season of starts from the soon-to-be first-round pick at quarterback isn’t the ideal outcome. But what would it have rather had instead of a record-setting year that included a Heisman Trophy finalist appearance, a complete change in the perception of the position with the Buckeyes and another Big Ten championship? Obviously the program wants to win national titles every year and it didn’t do that with Haskins, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario even in hindsight that Ryan Day would really trade for at this point.

Was Joe Burrow also capable of leading the Buckeyes to another conference crown? Certainly, and he probably wouldn’t have been in position to leap to the NFL quite like Haskins is now. So, from that perspective, maybe Ohio State would have been in solid shape if Burrow had won the job — but then it would have risked losing Haskins and also wouldn’t have been in position to land Justin Fields.

As for Tate Martell, it had been clear for quite some time that he was never going to be a guy the Buckeyes could count on to lead the program — and Miami is already seeing why as he continues to struggle with his accuracy during spring camp and runs as the third-string passer there. Heading into the spring with just Martell and Matthew Baldwin without looking to add another arm to replace Haskins would have been foolish and dangerous.

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Justin Fields is now the clear leader for Ohio State with Matthew Baldwin in the transfer portal. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State could have kept aggressively chasing Emory Jones on the recruiting trail during that cycle, but eventually that boiled down to a decision between him and Baldwin. The Buckeyes made their choice with a guy they reasonably expected would stick around long enough for them to develop and groom into an elite starter. But they couldn’t envision the homesickness or all the dramatic overhauls in the quarterback room that culminated with Baldwin requesting to enter the transfer portal. The odds aren’t great that Ohio State would have been able to keep Jones happy with playing time in the short term, so that’s hard to imagine him as a solution. And, once again, Day would take Fields over him anyway.

Other than somehow convincing Dwayne Haskins to put off becoming a millionaire and potential franchise quarterback in the NFL, this current situation was essentially unavoidable. Unless Day had somehow worked to slow down his development instead of helping build one of the best passers in the country, which would have taken an incredible amount of foresight and is also not something that would ever happen, there’s not much that could be done. So, squeezing more starts out of Haskins only really then comes down to the season before he became a starter — and the Buckeyes got that one right, too.

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Dwayne Haskins leaving for the NFL Draft wasn’t ideal after one season, but the Ohio State quarterback made a smart choice. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

There’s no debate that Haskins at his best is clearly preferable to J.T. Barrett at the peak of his powers. If Ohio State had been choosing between what Haskins became last year and what Barrett was as a senior, obviously that decision would have been relatively easy. But Haskins himself has made it clear that he wasn’t ready two years ago, and some of that revisionist hindsight with Barrett does a huge disservice to the most productive quarterback in Big Ten history — and a guy who also won the league in his final season as the starter. Could Ohio State have taken some lumps and tried to get Haskins more experience a year earlier? Sure, but why would it have done so when it was already legitimate College Football Playoff contender with Barrett? The Buckeyes got that decision right as well.

It’s hard to look back at any of the individual decisions, developments or plans that Ohio State had in place for the future of the quarterback position and find anything it did wrong. And aside from the current lack of depth behind Justin Fields, it’s still in a pretty enviable position nationally since it has the most decorated recruit in school history on the roster and ready to lead another run at the College Football Playoff.

The only real wrench in the plans was that Dwayne Haskins became a first-round quarterback too fast. And it’s hard for Ohio State to complain about that.

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