Taking over for a three-year captain and school hero like J.T. Barrett can be a tough task, but Dwayne Haskins basically became a Heisman candidate as soon as he was inserted into the starting lineup. The former top-five pro-style quarterback recruit from New Jersey played his high school ball in Maryland and was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year. He originally committed to join the Terrapins, but after their head coach was fired, he decided to go with Urban Meyer instead.
Haskins already had a crucial performance versus Michigan in 2017 when Barrett was forced to exit the game and the then-freshman brought some excitement to the field. However, it was last season that he really entered the national spotlight as the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, as he led the nation with 4831 passing yards and 50 touchdowns, while completing 70 percent of his passes.
Haskins might not scare people as a runner, but he can pick defenses apart from the pocket. He loves to spread defenses out and attacks them everywhere on the field. He realizes where the open target will be so early and might have the quickest release in this draft class. Haskins processes information at a fast rate, as he reads coverages and understands how to manipulate defenders pre- as well as post-snap. He will set his backs up nicely on screen passes with signals and his shoulders turned upfield the other way.
The one-year starter is willing to attack the middle of the field and delivers some beautiful touch-passes over the top, allowing his receivers to adjust to the ball. However, Haskins also has the arm strength to complete these 18-yard comebacks to the opposite hash and really leads receivers towards the sideline on corner and deep out routes.
For anyone questioning his deep ball – Haskins went 9 of 13 with seven touchdowns on 40+ yard throws last season. Overall he put up a passer rating of 134.8 from a clean pocket, which was only behind Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa. He recorded 290 combined first downs and touchdowns with an adjusted completion percentage of 77.3. According to the Ohio State coaches Haskins was responsible for all the protections and consistently got the offense into the right play.
When I watched Haskins at the start of the 2018 season I wasn’t really sure about him due to his lack of mobility, but later on I saw enough to make me feel good about him as a future prospect. While he isn’t a real running threat, Haskins was enough for the Buckeyes to run zone-read plays and hold that D-end or linebacker on the backside.
Haskins does a good job against pressure to climb the pocket and re-set his feet, plus he Is willing to take a hit to complete a pass. He really convinced me versus Maryland, when the OSU defense allowed over 300 yards on the ground and Haskins had to score six combined touchdowns to win a 52-51 contest in overtime to keep their Big 10 and possibly playoff hopes alive.
Unlike most Buckeye quarterbacks in recent years, Haskins could not depend on a smashmouth rushing attack and a suffocating defense, but really the team started to put the ball in Haskins’ hands a ton and he had to shoulder the load in a lot of games, not really ever having the luxury of his defense shutting out mediocre opponents.
Haskins played his best football down the stretch versus Michigan in the regular season finale, the Big Ten Championship versus Northwestern and the Rose Bowl against Washington. The former Buckeye had one of the best pro day workouts I have watched in recent years, where he showed quick movement inside the pocket while staying in a throw-ready posture.
Despite his downfield numbers, there was a lack of a vertical game with Haskins. He completed shallow crossers at such a high rate and got the ball out on screen passes to both his receivers and running backs, where a lot was added to his totals thanks to yards after the catch. You saw him check the ball down a whole lot, being hesitant to pull the trigger, and asked his playmakers trying to create.
I have to come back to the athleticism argument, because for as many true pocket quarterbacks as we have seen dominate the league, the game is changing and Haskins is more what people were looking for five to ten years ago. I would also like to see him work on his slides, as he looks very clunky when doing so, scraping the knee and potentially buckling to the side if he takes a late hit. Haskins tries to loft some passes into the receiver, where I would like to see more zip from him and he loses awareness for the underneath coverage every once in a while.
While I think he is a little less athletic, Haskins reminds me a lot of a young Ben Roethlisberger. He is a true pocket passer with all the arm talent and football intelligence you want to see. While being just a one-year starter, who benefitted from excellent play-calling and an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the skill-position players as well being sacked just 20 times all year, Haskins might have had the dynamic season of any quarterback in Ohio State history.
As a throwback prototype Haskins would benefit from going to a system that uses him in that mold and allows him to continue to grow, possibly learning on the bench for one year.
Grade: Mid-FirstPublished 21 Apr 2019, 18:01 IST