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Buckeye QB Controversy Coming in 2018

No, Buckeyes don't have a QB controversy, but just wait until 2018

Bill Bender  @BillBender92 April 16, 2017


COLUMBUS, Ohio — J.T. Barrett is the guy, OK?

There is no real quarterback controversy at Ohio State heading into the 2017 season. Barrett, who enters his fifth season with a 26-4 record as a starter and 100 career total touchdowns, will take the first snaps, barring injury, when the Buckeyes open at Indiana on Aug. 31. There should be little — if any — doubt about that, given Ohio State hosts Oklahoma on Sept. 9.

Consider this hypothetical question before thinking it could be anybody else: Could you fathom the reaction in Columbus if Urban Meyer started somebody other than Barrett and lost either one of those games? We're not going to get to that point.

That case is closed. If Saturday's LiFE Sports spring game at Ohio Stadium showed us anything, then it's that the battle for the backup job — and the starting job in 2018 —could be every bit as entertaining, if not more, than the Barrett-Cardale Jones-Braxton Miller debate in 2015. It doesn't hurt to have this much depth, but the Buckeyes have an almost-unheard of amount of talent at the most-important position.

Redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow (14 of 22, 262 yards, three touchdowns) and redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins (26 of 37, 293 yards, three touchdowns) are engaged in a furious battle for the backup spot, and that played out in a 38-31 shootout Saturday. Burrow threw touchdowns on three consecutive possessions. Haskins split time between the Scarlet and Gray teams and led four touchdown drives. Ohio State quarterbacks combined for 654 passing yards and seven TDs.

"As great at J.T. is, a lot of years you need more than one to be ready to play at a high level," new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "The comforting thing to me is both are on track to play at a high level."

Even early enrollee Tate Martell got in the action with a 5-yard touchdown run on his first offensive snap. Meyer needed just one word to evaluate the quarterback play in the game and in the spring.

"Outstanding," Meyer said. "The first week was kind of not real productive, but then all four quarterbacks in the last three weeks have been exceptional."

The hyperbole will be off the charts in 2018. Burrow is a former Ohio "Mr. Football" who running back Mike Weber compared to Tom Brady. Haskins compared his game to Deshaun Watson before the Fiesta Bowl. Martell has been compared to Johnny Manziel. Did we mention four-star dual-threat quarterback Emory Jones is committed for 2018? That's going to set up a four-way battle for Meyer to sort out.

Whoever wins the backup job behind Barrett will offer the first clue, though Meyer shed little light on who is winning that battle.

"I know it is very close," Meyer said. "I'm not prepared to say who is two and who is three, etc. yet."

Again — because it's necessary — there's no question Barrett is No. 1. That's not to say Barrett can't lose the job, but it would take a monumental fall camp from either Burrow or Haskins to even start that discussion. Keep in mind Barrett has lost three regular-season starts over the last three seasons and has yet to lose to rival Michigan. He's also a three-time team captain who has been a mentor to those young quarterbacks.

"One of the things we talk about now is when you are in there you control what you can and just be poised when things break down," Barrett said. "We didn't have meltdowns out there because each quarterback did a good job being poised in there with the time they had and just made great decisions."

It's clear Burrow and Haskins know they can play, too. They would start at a lot of other FBS schools.

Burrow, wearing a white bandanna and sleeve-less cutoff, smirked when told this was the second straight spring game where he stood out. There's no confidence shortage.

"I know I can play here now," Burrow said. "Now I need to play at a high level and keep getting better and better. Following J.T.; getting in a great relationship with the two young guys in the room and just keep on from there."

Haskins, sounded almost the same. There's a competition, but it's a tight meeting room with new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.

"I feel like J.T. does a good job of keeping it light-hearted in the room," Haskins said. "Even though me and Joe are going back and forth, we're never feeling animosity toward (each other)."

None toward Barrett either. That room belongs to the senior, but the quarterbacks-in-waiting exude those same special qualities for a program where Heisman-caliber play is expected. That was evident after their news conferences. Burrow wore a huge smile while talking with parents. Haskins walked down the Ohio Stadium tunnel a few minutes later, where you could see his backpack.

It was a cartoonish shark with its mouth wide open.

Perhaps that's a fitting reminder of what's coming for the Buckeyes in 2018. Somebody is going to have to be the guy to follow "the guy."

In other words, next year's spring game will have a lot more bite.

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