Ohio State’s quarterback was asked Tuesday night about finding ways to attack Michigan State’s defense, and he mentioned a conversation he had earlier in the day with a counterpart from another Big Ten team.
“I talked to Shea Patterson,” Haskins said. “He played them early in the year (so we talked) to try to find out what they do defensively.”
The media members surrounding Haskins practically did a double-take. The Ohio State quarterback sought advice from the Michigan quarterback? In this case, yes.
“I’ve known Shea since I was in eighth grade,” Haskins said. “We’ve played in an all-star game together, Elite 11 and all that type of stuff. I asked him how they played defensively and he gave me tips going into this week.”
Haskins said the quarterbacks haven’t talked much this season and don’t expect much conversation the week of the Ohio State-Michigan game.
“I’m not going to talk to him that week,” Haskins said.
Patterson is a dual-threat quarterback. Haskins is, well, not. He hasn’t run much or effectively this year. He had a particularly ungainly scramble for 3 yards against Nebraska.
“I was on the way down,” Haskins said. “I could have run a little bit more.”
He said that he worked in practice on Tuesday on making defenders miss in space. Haskins had a key scramble in last year’s Michigan game, so it has been a mild surprise that running hasn’t been a part of his game.
He explained that the Michigan scramble came against man-to-man coverage. Because of Ohio State’s passing prowess, the Buckeyes have seen more zone defenses, so defenders are more aware when a quarterback takes off.
“This week we’ve got some run packages in,” he said. “If I have to pull it, I can pull it. I had some good runs today on the inside drill. I’m excited to run the ball this week.”
Ohio State prides itself on being a man-to-man, press coverage team. But lately, the Buckeyes have sprinkled in some zone coverage.
Injuries are part of the reason. Damon Arnette missed the Purdue game with a concussion, and Jeffrey Okudah didn’t play in the Nebraska game because of a groin issue. They are in a three-cornerback rotation with Kendall Sheffield. When one is out, it’s hard for two cornerbacks to play the whole game in that kind of coverage.
The other factor is that the Buckeyes don’t have an obvious shutdown corner like they have had in recent years.
So the Buckeyes have adapted.
“We’re playing a little bit more zone,” Arnette said. “Playing press, man-to-man every play is hard. I like switching it up and playing with the quarterback(’s mind) a little more.”