The quarterbacks competing to become the starter at Ohio State each made plays that they can proudly put on their resume.
Dwayne Haskins Jr. threw some lasers that made the 47,803 fans who attended the Buckeyes’ spring game Saturday salivate at what he could do in 2018.
Redshirt junior Joe Burrow had the best game statistically (15-of-22 passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns) and showed off an arm that has improved since he arrived.
Tate Martell, mostly playing with backups on the Gray team and against Ohio State defensive starters on the Scarlet, didn’t light it up in the air (5 for 16 for 28 yards and an interception). But he showed the elusiveness that could make him at least a nice change-of-pace option in 2018.
For the record, the Gray beat the Scarlet 37-14 at Ohio Stadium, but since all three quarterbacks took snaps for both teams, the significance of that is negligible.
What really matters comes now, when Ohio State coaches decide which quarterback is the front-runner. Coach Urban Meyer has been steadfast all spring in saying that none of the three seized the lead.
“We’re going to have to make some decisions,” Meyer said. “Those decisions have not been made.”
Meyer started by praising Martell, but it would be a major surprise if he’s at the top of the depth chart as a redshirt freshman. Haskins, after all, led the Buckeyes to a comeback win over Michigan last year. Burrow was the backup in 2016 and has always drawn raves for his toughness and leadership.
The complicating factor is that Burrow is on track to graduate this spring, and therefore could transfer and immediately be eligible at a new school.
Burrow said afterward that he believes he has been given a fair chance at the job. But he was noncommittal about whether he’ll stay if he’s not tabbed as the starter.
“That would be a discussion in the meetings we have,” Burrow said. “I’m not sure yet. I’m happy with how I played and how the situation was handled this spring.”
He believes he put his best foot forward this spring. On Saturday, Burrow had a pair of long touchdown passes to Demario McCall, including a 42-yarder on the scrimmage’s final play. Meyer then signaled the spring game over, just beating the rain that had caused its start to be moved up two hours.
Haskins’ highlights included a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Harris and a 43-yard pass to Binjimen Victor that could not have been placed more accurately. He finished 9 of 19 for 120 yards with two touchdowns.
Asked if he believed he’d done enough to take the edge in the quarterback battle, Haskins replied, “I feel like I’ve done enough, but enough is never enough. You’ve got to keep pushing.”
Martell broke free several times for long runs. On one carry, he juked safety Wayne Davis in a way reminiscent of former Buckeye Braxton Miller.
The scrimmage had a beat-the-rain feel to it. Little time was wasted between snaps, and runners in the clear were whistled down to speed things up. Most plays were concluded with touch “tackles” rather than ball carriers being taken to the ground. The quarterbacks all wore black “no-tackle” jerseys.
This was mostly a showcase for the passing game. J.K Dobbins had only one carry — for minus-1 yard. So did Mike Weber, who broke his for 63 yards.
Shaun Wade, a five-star 2017 recruit who missed last year with an injury, had the game’s only turnover with a diving interception of a Martell pass.
Meyer said that many questions remain about his team, but he’s optimistic as spring football ends.
“I’m pretty pleased with where we’re at,” he said. “We’re not where we were last year. That was a veteran team.”