Dwayne Haskins took Ohio State quarterback play to a new level | Opinion

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Dwayne Haskins Jr. beat out Joe Burrow as Ohio State’s starting quarterback. That’s how good he was.

He beat Michigan in emergency relief of injured J.T. Barrett. That’s how composed he was.

He beat Penn State in a White Out game. That’s how tough he was.

He beat the drum for an injured teammate, defending Nick Bosa’s decision to turn pro early. That’s how supportive he was.

He beat back the stereotype that Ohio State was not a quarterback school, which helped lead Justin Fields and C.J. Stroud to Columbus. That’s how influential he was.

Then he was gone before you knew it, leaving school early and beating it to the NFL to become the highest drafted Ohio State quarterback (15th overall to Washington) since Art Schlichter went fourth in 1982.

And now he has left this world way too soon. The 24-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback died Saturday when a dump truck struck him when he attempted to cross lanes on I-595 near Fort Lauderdale for "unknown reasons," according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Where to begin? How about with Haskins’ legacy at Ohio State?

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) celebrates a rushing touchdown against Maryland Terrapins during the 4th quarter of their game at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium in College Park, Maryland on November 17, 2018.
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) celebrates a rushing touchdown against Maryland Terrapins during the 4th quarter of their game at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium in College Park, Maryland on November 17, 2018.

Many choose to remember Haskins as the quarterback who beat out Burrow for the starting quarterback job in 2018. And if we’re being honest, many still think Urban Meyer made the wrong choice, given Burrow’s success at LSU, where he won the 2019 Heisman Trophy, and with the Cincinnati Bengals, whom he led to the Super Bowl.

I’m not here to fixate on Meyer’s decision — this is a tribute, not a tribunal — but Haskins deserved to win the job. To argue otherwise is revisionist history. Haskins finished third in 2018 Heisman Trophy voting after throwing for 50 touchdowns, a Big Ten-record 4,831 yards and completing 70% of his passes. The Buckeyes finished 13-1, including a Rose Bowl win, mostly because of Haskins’ arm. Ohio State’s run game bogged down that season and its defense was not stellar.

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Long term, the "Haskins-Burrow decision" will be relegated to barroom debate. Of more lasting value is Haskins’ impact on Ohio State’s reputation, especially among recruits and one important transfer in Fields. Until Haskins had his huge season, the Buckeyes were known in NFL circles as Quarterback Ew, which is to say OSU QBs were not high on any team’s draft board. That tends to be the case when you make more noise with your feet than with your arms.

Dwayne Haskins lifted Ohio State QB play

Then came Haskins, who with help from Ryan Day took Ohio State quarterback play to a new level. Fields followed and became another first-round pick. Stroud could become another.

It's easy to forget the effect Haskins had during his one season in the Horseshoe. So here is a reminder, a sampling of comments from 2018 by former Ohio State quarterbacks astounded by what Haskins was doing.

"He has that swagger about him, that confidence and look that is really integral to being a great one." – Joe Germaine.

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) jumps to touch hands with a fan following the NCAA football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, October 6, 2018.
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) jumps to touch hands with a fan following the NCAA football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, October 6, 2018.

Until Haskins came along, Germaine arguably was Ohio State’s best passing quarterback, right there with Schlichter. Germaine owned the school record for single-season passing yards (3,330). Haskins blew by him with 4,831.

Germaine mostly was impressed with Haskins’ accuracy, but also with his ability to pick up tough yards as a runner.

"To reach your highest ceiling you also have to be a threat to keep the defense honest. Can you pull the ball down and get the short down and distance? He’s showing he can," Germaine said.

Two examples: Ohio State trailed Michigan 20-14 with 6:07 left in the third quarter of the 2017 game when Haskins replaced Barrett, whose knee had locked up after it got bumped by a photographer on the sideline. Haskins led the Buckeyes to three scores in the 31-20 win, and his 22-yard run to the UM 1-yard line set up J.K. Dobbins’ go-ahead touchdown.

"You (seldom) saw that part of him," Meyer said Saturday, recalling one of Haskins’ biggest moments with the Buckeyes. "We knew he could throw the ball, but he scrambled (on the 22-yard run) and dropped his pads and got some extra yards.”

The next year, Haskins ran 15 times for 59 yards and three touchdowns, including the 5-yard winner in overtime as Ohio State rallied against Maryland, 52-51.

Former Ohio State quarterback Rex Kern watched that game with great admiration.

“I jumped out of my chair, thought, ‘What is this guy doing (running it so much)?' It was great," Kern said then. "That really opens up things for our running backs."

Then there was this from former OSU quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, who was amazed how quickly Haskins got rid of the ball.

"What I've seen this year is as good as anything Ohio State has ever had," Herbstreit said. "When he has time to set his feet, and with that quick release, he flicks the ball like a slingshot, and on point."

If you need evidence that Haskins was the right quarterback at the right time for Ohio State in 2018, it’s hard to argue with guys who played the position.

Later in the 2018 season, Herbstreit addressed the way Haskins became more of a leader on the field and in the locker room.

"Early in the year he was a flat-liner, but against Maryland and Michigan, he was taking more control," Herbstreit said. "There was more emotion coming out. He’s fighting for Ohio State."

Haskins also fought for his teammates and had their backs, tweeting support for Bosa when the defensive lineman, who missed most of the season with an abdominal injury, opted to leave OSU early to enter the NFL draft.

"We’re going to hold it down, brotha, I gotchu," Haskins tweeted.

It may be true that all the positives did not always carry over to Haskins' NFL career, which began in Washington and ended in Pittsburgh. But as a college player, he deserves to be remembered as a quarterback who changed the perception of the position at Ohio State. He was the first graduate of Quarterback U. And he will be missed.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Dwayne Haskins took Ohio State quarterback play to a new level