J.T. Barrett is Ohio State's starting quarterback. That's as clear cut as it can be. Done. No questions asked. But the Buckeyes know as well as anyone that having a No. 2 ready to play is just as important.
As it stood Tuesday after Ohio State wrapped up it's fifth practice of fall camp, redshirt freshman Joe Burrow was leading the race to be Barrett's backup, but freshman Dwayne Haskins was still in the mix. But if the Buckeyes took the field this weekend, Burrow admitted that he'd still have plenty of work to do to get to the level he'd like to be at.
"I'm not ready yet," he said Tuesday. "I still got to get better.
"More reps, more studying, more everything. I've just got to keep getting better and be ready when my number's called."
Even if Burrow says he isn't ready just yet, his grip on the No. 2 spot won't necessarily slip away. For one thing, there's plenty of time before the Buckeyes open the season against Bowling Green on Sept. 3. For another, he's battling a guy in Haskins who, no matter how talented he is, has less than a week of practice under his belt at the collegiate level.
Ohio State quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, who confirmed Burrow would be the guy right now if Barrett was out, said Haskins is still getting used to the college system – just like anyone his age.
"Dwayne Haskins is a very talented guy who we’ll work in," Beck said. "We’re only five practice in so like most freshman at this time, he’s probably ready to implode.”
Barrett stressed the importance of remembering that no player – especially a quarterback – can be fully ready to go this early in fall camp. He even admitted that he wasn't totally prepared for what was ahead when he became Ohio State's starting quarterback in 2014 less than two weeks before the season began.
“I don’t even know if I was ready, for real," he said. "You’re put in a situation 10 days before game day and it’s been two years since you took a game rep. How many people are really ready? So I think at that time (head coach Urban) Meyer and (former quarterbacks coach Tom) Herman did their best to give me all the reps I could get and I think by the end of camp I think our coaches are gonna figure out who’s going to be ready in case that happens. But right now I don’t think anybody is ready for that game rep as far as anybody on the offense or defense just because it’s day 5.”
Since it is so early in camp and Haskins arrived this summer, Beck said Burrow has the upper hand at least in part because of his experience in the system. That's not to say he doesn't also have the talent, though, which Burrow showcased in the spring when he arguably out-performed Barrett during the Buckeyes' annual spring game at Ohio Stadium.
Beck said Burrow has improved a lot since his arrival in Columbus, and checks the boxes when it comes to being able to run the offense physically and mentally.
"He’s got great toughness, really smart, understands our offense really, really well," Beck said of Burrow. "He’s gotten bigger and stronger, as you would expect most freshman going in to their redshirt freshman season. And he works extremely hard, so I like Joe and how he is developing now.”
For now, the older Burrow has the upper hand on the younger Haskins, but both will continue to have their chances to prove themselves ahead of the beginning of the season. Rest assured, the Ohio State coaching staff will have both of them ready to play.
If you enjoyed this story, you will love Buckeye Sports Bulletin, the newspaper “For The Buckeye Fan Who Needs To Know More” since 1981. For four free trial issues of Buckeye Sports Bulletin with no obligation, click here.