Although people outside the Ohio State football program might have viewed Dwayne Haskins Jr. as competing to be the backup quarterback behind J.T. Barrett, Haskins had set a different standard.
Any competition was rendered moot Wednesday when Ohio State announced that fellow backup Joe Burrow had injured his throwing hand. But all that did was focus the spotlight on Haskins, a redshirt freshman from Potomac, Maryland.
“It’s not even, like, competing with Joe,” Haskins said recently. “It’s the starting quarterback. What is that like here at Ohio State? Right now, it’s J.T., so what we’re doing is competing with J.T. every day.
“You go to Ohio State, you think about (2006 Heisman Trophy winner) Troy Smith and everybody else that played quarterback here. What’s the standard? That’s what you try to compete to be every day.”
Burrow, a third-year sophomore from Athens, suffered a broken bone in his right hand in practice Monday and underwent surgery Tuesday to set it. He is out indefinitely, a team spokesman said.
“It was an unfortunate thing, he was running a drill, a helmet hit his hand. … I don’t know how long it will be” in terms of recovery, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Wednesday. “There’s a timeline; that’s a kid who can come back.”
That leaves Haskins and freshman Tate Martell of Las Vegas, the most decorated high school quarterback in the country last season, as the backups headed toward the opener Aug. 31 at Indiana. Haskins is the one in the jump seat at the moment.
“Dwayne needs to take advantage of the opportunity. … Tate will be in the mix as well,” Wilson said.
Even before Burrow’s injury, Haskins said he understood the standard of play expected.
“Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback, national championship-type team, just every day being the greatest quarterback you can be,” Haskins said.
That’s the attitude he has been taking into practice every day, he said.
“Whether I’m going in with the ones, the twos or the young guys, it’s like I’m going in there thinking I’m the guy,” Haskins said. “It’s just having that mentality that one day I will be the guy but I’m going to play like it in practice.”
Coach Urban Meyer and his staff have encouraged that attitude and used recent history at Ohio State as testimony.
"They always preach about 2014 and just how everybody was ready to play whether it was Braxton or J.T. or Cardale," Haskins said.
Entering the 2014 season, Braxton Miller was the No. 1 quarterback until he suffered a shoulder injury, thrusting Barrett into the starting role as a redshirt freshman. Barrett led the Buckeyes before suffering a broken ankle against Michigan. Cardale Jones stepped in and led the team to three postseason wins and the national championship.
Wilson said he will be just as interested in seeing how Burrow bounces back once his hand heals.
“It (was) day-to-day close, they were both moving in a great direction,” Wilson said. “Just like the spring game, they were very comparable.”
Now it’s advantage, Haskins.
“He’s a young guy with a lot of arm talent, learning the offense, getting more comfortable,” Wilson said. “Coach (Ryan) Day is doing a great job with him, a great job with all those guys.
“He needs to play … but in practice, going against a great defense every day, it’s very, very competitive, very challenging, he’s held his own. Will he do it for real with the bullets flying? We’ll see that when the opportunity presents itself.”