The intrigue begins in two days. Ohio State opens spring practice Tuesday, and for the first time since 2015, the No. 1 curiosity entering camp does not involve coaches.
No new offensive coordinator to analyze. Kevin Wilson returns, joined by quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, whose upgrade in title — co-offensive coordinator — and increase in pay helped keep him out of the NFL.
No new defensive coordinator to critique. Greg Schiano spurned offers from the NFL and got spurned at the last minute by Tennessee and its social-media trolls.
No new coach, either. Urban Meyer isn’t going anywhere — not this season, anyway — despite assertions from outsiders (cough, cough, Dabo, cough, cough) that Ohio State’s coach is on the back end of his career. Meyer’s response? Anyone saying that is a back end.
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs took his enthusiasm to the Tennessee Titans, but his replacement (Taver Johnson) will do just fine. And new safeties coach Alex Grinch played at Mount Union. He is sworn by the blood of Larry Kehres not to fail.
Concerning Ohio State coaches, then, there is nothing to see here. Instead, all eyes are on the quarterback. Or quarterbacks, depending on whether you think redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins Jr. is the lock-tight heir apparent to J.T. Barrett. I do.
As much as I like Joe Burrow’s throw-run ability and Tate Martell’s run-throw potential, Haskins earned the starting job in November when he came on in relief of an injured Barrett and led the Buckeyes to a comeback win at Michigan.
Ohio State trailed 20-14 with 6:07 left in the third quarter when Haskins replaced Barrett, whose knee had locked up after it was bumped by a photographer on the sideline. Meyer’s military-intelligence police still have not located the shutterbug culprit, but the Buckeyes located their next quarterback.
Haskins led the Buckeyes to three second-half scoring drives and a 31-20 win against the Wolverines. Among his biggest plays was a 22-yard run to the Michigan 1-yard line that set up J.K. Dobbins' go-ahead touchdown.
That run should have Buckeye Nation feeling both comfortable and concerned. Comfortable because Haskins has enough running chops to get important yardage when needed. Concerned because he has enough running chops to get important yardage when needed.
You read that right. With Barrett finally exiting after enough years to earn tenure, the Buckeyes need to transition from an offense reliant on the QB saving the day with his legs to one who wins games with his arm.
Barrett set nearly every Ohio State passing record possible, but his ability to secure prime real estate in short-yardage situations put a sparkle in Meyer’s eyes. The Not-Quite-Yet Ol’ Ball Coach — 53 is the new 49 — still loves him some toughness from his quarterbacks, and if he thinks Haskins can get 37 inches on fourth-and-1, he will retreat to his warm cup of cocoa in other situations, too.
That would be a mistake. Just because a quarterback can run does not mean he must. Just because Haskins jogged 22 yards against Michigan does not mean he always should lower his shoulder on third-and-3. The strong-armed QB can spin the leather into tight windows, so let him do it. More accurately, let Wilson and Day let him do it.
I’ll believe it when I see it. Meyer always stresses it is the Ohio State offense, not the brainchild of any single offensive guru. My suspicion is it really is his offense, which relies on a running quarterback.
So I guess I was wrong. The main intrigue of spring camp does involve a coach. How will Meyer use his quarterback?