Don’t take this the wrong way, but Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. could be the next Art Schlichter. If coach Urban Meyer allows it, that is.
Schlichter is known to Ohio State football fans for having possessed a strong arm and ability to run effectively when necessary, which sounds like Haskins.
Schlichter also had off-field problems that included gambling debts, fraud and prison. That is not Haskins, who unofficially won the job as the Buckeyes’ starter for the fall when Joe Burrow announced on Tuesday that he would transfer.
A less recognized reality regarding Schlichter is that he is the last Ohio State quarterback to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, having gone fourth overall to the Baltimore Colts in 1982.
It didn’t go well for the Artful Dodger after that, but that’s a topic for another day. More germane to this discussion, Haskins could be the next Buckeyes QB to go in the first round, which would be good for Haskins as well as Ohio State’s less-than-stellar NFL quarterback history.
The Buckeyes’ offense should look different this season with the pass/run Haskins taking over for the run/pass J.T. Barrett. My hunch is the majority of Buckeye Nation equates different with better. The question is whether Meyer agrees.
Will the Ohio State coach tailor the offense around Haskins’ strong and accurate arm, or will he stay in his safe zone by leaning on the quarterback to pick up crucial yards with his legs? (The negative side effect to that plan is that it means fewer carries for the tailbacks.)
Meyer has the highest winning percentage (.851) among active coaches with 10 years or more of service, not to mention three national championship rings. You don’t build that resume by being wrong, so one figures that Meyer will instruct offensive coordinators Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day to fit the offense more around Haskins’ arm.
In this regard, it’s best to think of Meyer as air-traffic controller and Wilson and Day as pilot and co-pilot. Meyer sets the course. The pilot-coordinators operate in the moment but submit to the coach, who sees the big picture.
Has the big picture become fuzzy? Some angst exists over whether Meyer’s spread offense works as effectively as it did when he coached Florida to two national titles and the Buckeyes to one. Specifically, Meyer usually has relied on quarterbacks who were excellent runners. But is that because he prefers running QBs — he recruits them, after all — or because he wisely draws up his offense around what the quarterback does best?
Barrett was a better runner than passer, so Meyer went with Barrett’s strength in crucial situations. Ditto Braxton Miller. And to some extent the same goes for Tim Tebow at Florida and Alex Smith at Utah. Cardale Jones, meanwhile, owned the big arm, and Meyer benched him during an inconsistent 2015 season to go back to Barrett.
We know Meyer demands his quarterbacks be able to gain important yards on the ground. Haskins can do that — just as Schlichter did. But no one will mistake the third-year sophomore for Barrett as a runner. With Haskins, the Buckeyes are getting a true throw-first quarterback. The only question is, how will he develop?
For all the success Ohio State has had with draft picks becoming successful pros, the Buckeyes have a spotty record with quarterbacks transitioning into big-time NFL talents. OSU has no Tom Brady (Michigan), Drew Brees (Purdue), Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) or Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) to brag on.
But Ohio State eventually will hit the quarterback lottery, and Haskins, mostly because of his NFL arm, shows big payday potential. Air traffic control just needs to clear him for takeoff.