Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins declares for NFL draft

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Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins could be the first quarterback selected in the 2019 NFL draft. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins could be the first quarterback selected in the 2019 NFL draft. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Ohio State will have a new starting quarterback in 2019.

Dwayne Haskins, after tossing 50 touchdowns and finishing third in the Heisman voting in his first season as the Buckeyes’ starter, announced Monday that he will forgo his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2019 NFL draft.

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ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported last month that Haskins was given a first-round grade by the NFL college personnel advisory board. And with Justin Herbert of Oregon deciding to return to school for his senior season, Haskins could end up being the first quarterback selected.

Haskins threw for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns

Haskins redshirted the 2016 season before showing the country his potential when coming in on relief of the injured J.T. Barrett in a win over rival Michigan in the final game of the 2017 regular season. Ahead of the 2018 season, he beat out Joe Burrow (who transferred to LSU) to top the depth chart.

With new head coach Ryan Day running the offense as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator and stand-in coach while Meyer was suspended to start the 2018 season, Haskins thrived for the Buckeyes. Haskins led the nation with 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns while completing exactly 70 percent of his passes and tossing only eight interceptions. Along the way, he had five 400-yard games, 10 300-yard games and set quite a few Ohio State and Big Ten records.

Two of his best performances came late in the year. In the victory over Michigan that clinched the Big Ten East title, Haskins picked apart the Wolverines for 396 yards and six touchdowns. The following weekend, in the Big Ten title game, Haskins completed 34-of-41 passes for a career-high 499 yards and five touchdowns.

But perhaps more than anything, Haskins will be remembered in Columbus for his thorough dismantling of the vaunted Michigan defense in a game that cost UM a shot at the College Football Playoff:

Haskins’ day was filled with dizzying statistics, including his six touchdown passes nearly matching the seven total Michigan had yielded all season. But the most impressive stat may have been that he wasn’t sacked, surprising considering Ohio State’s offensive line had been riddled with leaky protection and pre-snap penalties all season.

That was aided by Haskins, who didn’t miss a single blitz pick-up call. Ohio State coaches estimated after the game that Brown blitzed about 75 percent of the plays. And Haskins had an answer for all of them, whether pre-snap with an identification or rolling out to buy time and avoid pressure. It was a savvy performance that belied this being only his 12th career start.

The game vaulted Haskins into the Heisman conversation even as Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray were considered by many to be the top two candidates for the award. Haskins finished third in the Heisman voting.

What’s next at quarterback for Ohio State?

With Haskins’ decision confirmed, Justin Fields, who spent the 2018 season at Georgia, is the main candidate to be his successor. As Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde reported Friday, Fields is set to transfer to Ohio State with the aim of being eligible in 2019.

Before the Rose Bowl, Haskins told reporters that he spoke with Fields. Haskins had high praise for Fields, who was interested in Haskins’ plans.

“We worked out together over the summer. He’s unique in how much he wants to learn and how much he’s willing to commit himself to being great. He’s a great kid,” Haskins said Dec. 29. “He hit me up earlier and is waiting to see what I’m doing. I don’t know what he’s going to do yet.”

If Fields, the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2018 class, succeeds in his quest to become immediately eligible, it will be a major coup for Day in his first year as head coach. Day has been praised for how he developed Haskins. Fields is after the same tutelage.

In Columbus, Fields would compete with Tate Martell, Haskins’ 2018 backup, for the starting role. He has been clear that he won’t go down lightly and dismissed the idea he would transfer.

“If someone thinks they’re going to walk in and start, it’s probably not going to happen, just from having to learn the offense,” Martell said at Rose Bowl Media Day. “Why would I leave for someone who hasn’t put a single second into this program yet?

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