If the only thing to go by were the spring game, Ohio State’s choice for starting quarterback would seem to be pretty obvious.
Joe Burrow made the best case to be the man this fall, completing 15 of 22 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns while Dwayne Haskins Jr. was 9 for 19 for 120 yards and two scores as well.
Of course, there’s more to football than raw numbers, and those can be deceiving at times since there are 21 other players on the field who have a say in what happens.
Nonetheless, Burrow’s line would probably be enough for me to choose him as the starter despite a handful of jaw-dropping throws from Haskins.
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Again, that is if we were choosing based only on what happened Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
Since there is much more to consider, I still tend to think the starter on Sept. 1 when Oregon State comes to town will be Haskins.
I take Urban Meyer at his word when he says the battle was too close to call throughout the spring and the reason was that everyone (including third-stringer Tate Martell) played well rather than because no one proved worthy.
The spring game confirmed all three have the tools to handle the position even though all three have different skill sets.
That Haskins arm is hard to ignore, but Burrow still produced more explosive plays in the spring game so how much of a difference does that really make?
The biggest factor could end up being that Haskins ended last season No. 2 on the depth chart.
There is no indication he did anything to lose that spot, though Meyer said he and his coaching staff would sit down next week and see how all of the plays they charted during spring add up.
That data will play a big part in the ultimate choice, as will intangibles, knowledge of the offense and raw ability.
Meyer praised Burrow for his toughness and leadership, and he said his arm and delivery have improved since he became a Buckeye. He scrapped his way to Columbus from Athens, where he came within a whisker of leading his high school team to the state championship his senior season.
Although Burrow was a four-star recruit, he has painted himself as an underdog overall based on that point of origin.
Meanwhile, Haskins is the golden-armed four-star prospect who signed a year later out of Maryland. He can do things with the ball few players can.
More importantly, though, Haskins also has a come-from-behind win over Michigan on his resume.
Haskins entered cold in Ann Arbor last fall when J.T. Barrett’s knee failed him, and he delivered with a handful of excellent throws while the running backs and defense did the rest. He also had a key scramble despite not being known for his legs.
I don’t know if there is an official measurement for moxie out there we can all agree to use, but Haskins showed an awful lot of it that day.
Here the 2015 Ohio State quarterback derby is also instructive when it comes to trying to predict what Meyer will decide.
He ultimately chose Cardale Jones over J.T. Barrett at the beginning of that season, and he didn’t cite Jones’ superior physical ability or say he was clearly better in practice. Obviously, ability to run the football wasn’t a factor since that would have pointed to the starter being Barrett.
Meyer reasoned that since Jones had finished the previous season as the starter, he should stay in that position until he lost it or someone clearly overtook him.
If he follows that pattern, Haskins would seem to have a clear advantage.
That win at Michigan is a heck of a trump card, too.
But only time will tell.
Perhaps all that practice data will paint a clearer picture than perception has created at this point. Maybe those numbers will cause a starter to jump off the page.
Maybe that will be Haskins. Maybe it will be Burrow.
Complicating matters is Burrow’s potential to transfer if he isn’t named the starter. He said it would be a very difficult decision to leave, but I don’t think in this day and age many Ohio State fans would blame him for looking for an opportunity to play elsewhere.
The Scarlet and Gray machine always churns on anyway.
And yet after Burrow produced a clearly better line Saturday, there’s plenty of reason to think he could have done it during the 14 practices that preceded the spring game, too.
But that Haskins arm, right?
And that win at Michigan?
I suspect those will be harder to ignore when all is said and done.