INDIANAPOLIS — Dwayne Haskins Jr. grabbed another honor Friday, being named the winner of the Chicago Tribune Silver Football, which isn’t bad for an Ohio State quarterback who figures he has yet to reach his potential.
The third-year sophomore said this week he is “not close,” despite having set Big Ten season records for passing yards (4,081) and touchdown passes (42).
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“But I mean, it’s my first year starting, I feel like I can get so much better,” Haskins said. “I’m just worried about getting better every game. I feel like I have a ways to go. But the biggest thing is for me to put my best foot forward and figure out how to beat Northwestern.”
He is considered the primary reason the No. 6 Buckeyes, winners of the Big Ten East, have a shot at a second straight league title. They will take on West winner Northwestern on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in the championship game.
The Silver Football, given to the Big Ten MVP, is voted on by conference coaches, who are told to select two players but must refrain from selecting for one of his own. On the 13 ballots on which Haskins was eligible, he was named on just six, but his five first-place votes gave him enough points (11) to beat out Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (8).
Ohio State players have won or shared five of the last seven, including quarterback Braxton Miller winning it back-to-back in 2012 and ’13, running back Ezekiel Elliott in ’15, and quarterback J.T. Barrett, a joint winner with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley in ’16.
The last Big Ten player to roll from winning the Silver Football to also winning the Heisman Trophy was Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa is considered the favorite for the Heisman, with Haskins and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray likely to finish behind him.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald left no doubt who he considered to be the best player in the Big Ten.
“I would have voted for him for the Heisman if I had a Heisman ballot,” Fitzgerald said Friday.
Terry McLaurin, one of the Buckeyes’ three fifth-year senior receivers and captains, had no trouble categorizing Haskins as elite.
“When I think of ‘elite’ quarterbacks, I think they make the biggest plays when you need ’em the most,” McLaurin said. “I feel like those type of quarterbacks, they’re winners and they make the people around them better. There is no doubt Dwayne has made our receiver group better. He has made our O-line better. He has made all the positions on our offense better. Defenses really have to prepare for what he brings to the table.”
Recalling that Haskins said this week he has tapped just “65 to 70 percent” of his potential, Fitzgerald simply said, “That’s scary.”