Dwyane Haskins has the opportunity to be a pioneer of sorts at Ohio State.
By all accounts, Haskins is pass-first quarterback. Our own Christopher Jason wrote exactly that in his Signing Day profile of the newest Buckeye quarterback. A look at Haskins' high school statistics would also suggest that the former Maryland verbal commit prefers to chuck the rock rather than tote it. Then there's Haskins' physical profile, which lists him at 6-3 and a slender 198 pounds.
Since the Urban Meyer era began at Ohio State in 2012, Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett have combined to make 41 out of a possible 54 starts at quarterback. The other 13 starts were made by Kenny Guiton (two) and Cardale Jones (11), a pair of pass-first quarterbacks who could also run when needed.
Miller and Barrett are classic dual-threat quarterbacks with run-first tendencies. As the Buckeyes' quarterback from 2012-13, Miller logged 398 rushes and 310 pass attempts. Barrett has 286 carries and 296 attempted passes in his career.
Per MaxPreps, Haskins had 37 carries for minus-51 yards in his junior season. Chances are Haskins will never the type of quarterback to regularly notch 15 or more rush attempts in a game, something Barrett has already done 10 times in his career and a number Miller reached 17 times from 2012-13.
The evidence appears to suggest that Meyer's spread offense is best-suited for a run-first quarterback. In a recent podcast on Cleveland.com, Ohio State writer Doug Lesmerises argued that Meyer's offense "cannot and will not maximize its potential" without a quarterback that is an essential cog in the run game.
I disagree. And that makes the prospect of Haskins so exciting.
First, Ohio State's 2015 offense endured a litany of problems that had little to do with the running capabilities of its quarterbacks. Among the issues:
*Lack of a fluid, consistent play-calling structure between Meyer, offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck. While details are sparse, we know that when Warinner was moved from the field to the press box after the Michigan State debacle, the offense clicked in its final two games.
*An unsettled quarterback situation, which negatively impacted the confidence of both Barrett and Jones. Depending on whether Barrett or Jones was under center, the Ohio State offense shifted its identity, which prevented everyone involved -- the play-callers, the quarterbacks, the skill position players, and the offensive line -- from accumulating consistent game reps in a single scheme, which in turn affected the production of the entire offense.
*Injuries crippled the wide receiving corps, meaning Barrett and Jones were throwing mostly to players unfamiliar with the position. Ohio State's reception leaders in 2015 included a true wideout (Michael Thomas), a converted H-back (Jalin Marshall), a running back (Ezekiel Elliott), a converted quarterback (Miller), and a converted running back/H-back (Curtis Samuel).
To further bolster Haskins' case, there is a history of pass-first quarterback succeeding in Meyer's offense at Ohio State when complimented with a dynamic, workhorse running back.
With current San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde in the backfield, Kenny Guiton accounted for 491 passing yards and 97 rushing yards in two 2013 starts while filling in for an injured Miller. Hyde averaged nearly six yards per tote on 22 carries in those two contests.
When Barrett was lost for the season in the 2014 Michigan game, Jones started the Buckeyes' final three games and accumulated 742 passing yards and 90 rushing yards in Ohio State's run to the national championship. To compensate for Barrett's absence in the ground game, the Buckeyes reconfigured their running attack, scrapping many of their zone-read inclinations and replacing those actions with counters and traps. The result was Elliott running wild in Jones' three starts, racking up 696 yards and averaging over nine (!) yards per rush.
Plus, just like Guiton or Jones could be potent as ball carries, Haskins possesses that same potential. Guiton averaged over eight yards per carry on 40 attempts in 2013. Jones' per carry numbers are nothing to tout, but he was effective as a scrambler and a short-yardage runner in crucial moments against Alabama and Oregon. Haskins won't be consistently running over defenders like the 6-5, 250-pound Jones or juking them into next week like Miller, but reports indicate that Haskins is light on his feet and can extend plays.
So, a pass-first quarterback can work in Meyer's offense. If Haskins is paired with a great running game, he'll be just fine. Meyer is certainly a believer, as the Buckeyes' coach was short and sweet in his praise of Haskins to the Big Ten NetworkWednesday morning: "I love him."
Let the excitement begin.
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