COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dwayne Haskins has created quite a buzz with his ability to throw the football in his first four starts for fourth-ranked Ohio State.
It’s not exactly a surprise, though. Haskins had shown his talent as a passer in rallying Ohio State at Michigan last year and then in spring practice while beating out Joe Burrow for the starting quarterback job. Burrow subsequently transferred in May to LSU, where he’s now the starter.
So far, Haskins has exceeded most expectations.
His numbers are dizzying: 16 touchdown passes, one interception and a 75.7 completion percentage. He has put up those numbers while playing limited minutes in three of the four games.
To put Haskins’ start in perspective, no quarterback in Big Ten history has thrown five or more touchdown passes in the first four games of a season.
He ranks second nationally in completion percentage. The 16 touchdown passes are the second highest total in the country and the second most in Big Ten history to begin a season.
Last week while playing one half against Tulane, he connected on 21 of 24 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns.
“He’s a very poised quarterback. Watching him on tape you would have thought he is a third-year starter,” said Tulane coach Willie Fritz. “He handles things really well out there. He’s got a big arm, good touch.”
But the biggest test awaits Haskins and the Buckeyes this week.
Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) hits the road for a showdown with No. 9 Penn State (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday night.
The hype will be enormous. ESPN’s College GameDay will be there for a White Out at Beaver Stadium, and “Haskins for Heisman” conversations are popping up. It’s the first time the teams have met while unbeaten since 1998.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who returned to the sideline last week for a 49-6 victory over Tulane after his three-game suspension, is somewhat concerned about Haskins blocking out what’s being said about him.
“I called him Saturday night (as) I was driving home from the game,” Meyer said. “I called him just with that message to stay focused. … One thing about Columbus, Ohio, is this is the show, and they become bigger than life and we’ve got to really … “
Ohio State definitely hasn’t had a quarterback who could sling it quite like Haskins since Meyer arrived in 2012 and maybe never. Haskins has turned Meyer’s usual dual-threat offense into more of a pass-first attack.
A talented group of experienced wide receivers also are responsible for Ohio State averaging 365 passing yards per game and 233 on the ground. Typically, those numbers are flipped.
“It’s a very different offense right now,” Meyer said. “One was a run first, pass second. This is a do-what-they-give-you. I don’t think we’ve ever had a team average over 300 yards passing in a game either.”
–WR Parris Campbell worked hard in the offseason to improve his ball skills, and it’s paying off. The fifth-year senior’s decision to stay in college in 2018 rather than pursue the NFL Draft was a wise one, coach Urban Meyer said after Saturday’s 49-6 victory over Tulane. Campbell had career highs of eight catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns (both in the first quarter). He leads the team in touchdown catches with five and in receiving yards with 299. His 19 catches are two behind team leader K.J. Hill’s 21.
–RB J.K Dobbins may be counted on more heavily Saturday, especially if RB Mike Weber is slowed by a foot injury suffered during the second quarter of last week’s win over Tulane. Dobbins carried only 11 times for 55 yards and one touchdown against Tulane before sitting out the second half, but he is the Buckeyes’ leading rusher through four games with 323 yards on 56 carries (5.8-yard average).
–LB Dante Booker led Ohio State’s defense in the win over Tulane with one sack, three tackles for loss and four solo stops.