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Dwayne Haskins could be the template for Ohio State’s quarterback of the future

It’s a new era for quarterbacks under Ryan Day.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Conference-Football Championship-Northwestern vs Ohio State Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s very diverse in his playbook. Having [worked with] Chip Kelly and coaching in the NFL, he has a ton of experience. He definitely has a lot in his toolbox.”

-Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Ryan Day, via Adam Rittenberg, ESPN

It’s true that Ohio State has never been the “cradle of quarterbacks” that a school like Purdue has been in the past. Defensive backs, linemen, linebackers and the more than occasional running back have been heavy draws from Ohio State, but signal callers have not generally been successful.

In Columbus, quarterbacks have been less valued for their size or arm strength as they’ve been for their intelligence on field and leadership in the huddle. Think Craig Krenzel. That talent has generally not panned out in the NFL. Under Urban Meyer, quarterbacks have also looked different and brought different, more dual threat-focused skill sets. J.T. Barrett (who, coincidentally, was just resigned to the Saints’ practice squad) is the token example, as a mobile quarterback who made good decisions and provided a stable force in the huddle for what seemed like a century. But even Barrett went undrafted last year, as the pros still value someone with pure passing ability first and mobility second.

What happened this season at Ohio State is something new. Especially compared to Barrett, Dwayne Haskins showed what a pro-style passer can do for the Buckeyes, having broken nearly every single-season program passing record. Moreover, Haskins developed his pro-style attack under Ryan Day, who brings real-life professional experience having worked with NFL quarterbacks while with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. If Haskins chooses to leave for the NFL Draft after the Rose Bowl, he’ll almost assuredly be the first quarterback off the board in the first round—even with just one season as a starter under his belt.

While Haskins’ departure would be a blow for the program in the short term, it also represents a major opportunity in terms of recruiting. With Meyer’s retirement, the recruiting machine that’s been build up over the past seven seasons is at risk, but the development of a first-round talent quarterback—something Day can truly take credit for—will keep the cogs turning.

“Yeah. I can throw rather well.”

-Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell, via Doug Lesmerises,

Tate Martell has had a lot to say in the last week regarding the future of the quarterback position at Ohio State—especially his role in it. He has certainly projected a lot of confidence for someone who is backing up a quarterback who could be one of the top picks in next year’s NFL Draft, but questions remain as to how he would fill the passing void left by Haskins come next season.

Martell came to Columbus as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in his recruiting class. If he would have won the starting job this season, the offense might have looked a lot like it did under Barrett from the previous four seasons. Instead, Haskins won the job and set a new, pass-first course for the quarterback spot—until the Buckeyes would get in the red zone and try a weird, dual-threat experiment that, by mid-season, was all too easy to sniff out.

The thought wasn’t all bad: With J.K. Dobbins or Mike Weber in the backfield and a range of receivers in a compressed part of the field, having a quarterback who could successfully execute the option expands possibilities for the offense. Unfortunately, especially as the Buckeyes fell into a bit of a rut midseason, Martell only ran in the red zone, allowing defenses to sell out for the quarterback rush—and giving the impression that, maybe, Martell just didn’t have the ability to throw the ball successfully.

But, that looks to be an error in the play call, not a flaw with the quarterback. During Rose Bowl practice this week, Martell showed what he could do with his arm. While he isn’t on the level of Haskins (who is?) he certainly has demonstrated on the practice field and, previously, on his high school tape that he can be more than just a threat on the ground.

“I’ve coached linebackers and been a coordinator in the NFL for a long time. I didn’t forget how to coach when I got to Ohio State.”

-Ohio State linebackers coach Bill Davis, via Dan Hope, Eleven Warriors

In many ways, this year has been the inverse of success for Ohio State. While the Buckeyes have traditionally relied on a stout defense and an offense which simply gets the job done, this season, they’ve looked more like (dare I say it?) a Big 12 team. Ohio State has relied on a high-flying offense to outscore opponents as its defense tries in vain to plug holes and prevent big plays. On the season, the Buckeyes have given up more than 400 yards per game--the most in program history. By comparison, Rutgers gives up 401.5.

To be fair, the whole defense is not the problem. The defensive line, even without Nick Bosa, is still a credible threat. Defensive backs obviously took a step back with the loss of Denzel Ward No. 4 overall in the NFL Draft last spring, but even that unit has been anchored by junior safety Jordan Fuller. The real problem, and the one which subtly plagued the Buckeyes last season as well, is at linebacker.

Deficiencies at linebacker were easier to cover up with an All-American cast of defensive backs, but the gaps were apparent already last season. And with the departure of Jerome Baker for the NFL, the troubles at the linebacker position became all the more noticable. With only Tuf Borland returning as a starter, after not even starting a full season last year, there was bound to be a learning curve. Linebackers coach Bill Davis, who has coached with nine NFL teams previously, has taken a lot of heat in his two seasons in Columbus for not getting his position group on the level it needs to be.

Perhaps this position is held to a high standard because of the tradition of it in the program: Ohio State has historically produced some of the best linebackers in football.