Haskins stays cool despite hot start

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. has completed nearly 80 percent of his passes for 543 yards and nine touchdowns in two games, though he knows TCU will pose a serious challenge on Saturday. [Jonathan Quilter]

Not much fazes Dwayne Haskins Jr.

Football sure doesn’t seem to. He entered last season’s game at Michigan as a redshirt freshman and played like a veteran in leading the Buckeyes to a comeback win.

His first two games as Ohio State’s starter have been nearly flawless. Haskins is simply having fun.

“Honestly, it’s just school and dogs and girlfriend and family,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t really let the football stuff get to me. One practice at a time, one game at a time is what I think about.”

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But Saturday’s game against TCU in Arlington, Texas, is different, Haskins acknowledged. Oregon State and Rutgers were overmatched in Ohio State’s first two games. Haskins has completed 42 of 53 passes (79.2 percent) for 546 yards, with nine touchdown passes and only one interception while not taking a snap in the fourth quarter.

Saturday doesn’t figure to be another breeze. TCU is ranked No. 15 and Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson is likely to have some tricks up his sleeve.

“There is definitely a little more energy, a little more juice getting ready for this game because it’s a big-time game,” Haskins said. “Every day in practice, Isaiah Prince and Terry (McLaurin) and Parris (Campbell) and Johnnie (Dixon) emphasize how big this game is and how it’s our first really key game of the season. We have a lot of key games in order to do what we want to do for the national championship, and this is only one of them.”

It’s the kind of game Haskins has thought about since he was a little kid in 2008 tossing the football around in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

“Just having the opportunity to play on Saturday night, (on ABC), it’s a dream come true,” he said. “Playing in the team up north game last year was a dream come true. Every game is a dream come true for me — being able to be a starter for my dream school. I take every game like it’s my last.”

Haskins has opened eyes with his start. But a big game against a marquee opponent could really propel him into the national spotlight.

“I really haven’t thought about that,” Haskins said. “The biggest statement for me is to just go win the game. That’s all I want to do.”

Haskins’ arm has already drawn attention. He throws effortlessly and accurately.

“They’re throwing the ball a lot better,” Patterson said. “They’re doing a lot of the same stuff. They’re just doing it better.”

Acting head coach Ryan Day, who also is the quarterbacks coach, said Haskins has made his most progress in the football classroom.

“There is so much that goes into being a quarterback — route structures, protections, the run game, then taking command of the offense,” Day said. “That has really taken off since last year.”

The other area of improvement is in his physical conditioning working with strength coach Mickey Marotti.

“Now he has become more of a physical presence,” Day said. “He has gotten stronger, gotten more mass to him.”

Asked what he needs to improve, Haskins replied, “Just being a leader, a field general, having that intensity about me. I’m getting better with that every game.”

Haskins does have a placid personality; he isn’t fiery by nature like predecessor J.T. Barrett could be. But there is something to be said for having little that gets him riled up.

Well, there are a couple things that do.

“Probably the biggest thing is homework, and having to take my dogs out and pick their, you know, stuff up,” he said of his Doberman and two Yorkies. “That gets me pretty riled up.”


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