Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell has a legitimate shot to earn playing time during the 2018 season.
In him, Meyer sees a quarterback with a similar competitive spirit as quarterbacks such as Tim Tebow, Alex Smith and J.T. Barrett; a player who refuses to lose.
The amount of playing time he’s able to afford Martell depends on something Meyer does multiple times each season.
“I list our top 20 players on offense in order,” Meyer said. “Then I hold it over the coaches heads to make sure those guys are playing.”
Going into his seventh season as the head coach at Ohio State, Meyer believes earning playing time is simple. If a player, such as Martell, is not one of the 20 best players on the roster, he will not play. However, if he is, the Ohio State offense will accommodate whatever playing style that particular player has and he will see the field.
Coming into the 2018 season without Barrett on the roster, the quarterback room will need to use that approach more.
Redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins will enter training camp as the starting quarterback, having shown what he can do in high leverage situations after Barrett went down with an injury in the 2017 Michigan game.
“Dwayne has shown in front of millions of people in a rivalry game,” Meyer said. “He has a little bit of a different way of doing it, but he’s earning the respect of our players and our staff.”
Meyer said Haskins is very different from Barrett, complimenting his release, his size and accuracy throwing the football.
That does not mean Meyer will take away one of the key components of last year’s offense with Haskins at the helm: the run-pass option.
“We are always going to be a spread offense which means you have have dual read, dual opportunities to either hand the ball off or, to either give it or pull it. You know, the RPO world where you either give it or you throw it,” Meyer said. “I still think that it is going to be even more involved than with J.T.”
With Barrett’s collegiate career complete, Ohio State seems to be changing its approach at quarterback. In three straight recruiting classes, the Buckeyes have had a pro-style quarterback commit to the program, with Matthew Baldwin in 2018, Dwan Mathis in 2019 and Jack Miller in 2020.
Meyer said he does not recruit quarterbacks to match the style of play of his football program at the time.
“We fit whatever we have,” Meyer said. “We go after the best player that has the intangibles of competitiveness and toughness and leadership and we build it around what he can do.”
Going into the 2018 season, this difference between a pro-style quarterback and a dual-threat quarterback could prove to be an issue in the Ohio State locker room. If Martell pushes for playing time as a dual-threat option, Baldwin, a pro-style quarterback coming off major knee surgery, will likely be looked to as the traditional backup coming off the bench.
With the loss of Joe Burrow, who transferred to LSU during the offseason, this is a conversation Meyer said he has had with his coaching staff in terms of what Ohio State needs to do about its depth at the quarterback position.
However, for Meyer it is simple. To have the best chance to win, he said he has to put the best players on the field. If that indeed is Martell, Meyer said Ohio State already has some tricks up its sleeve.
“If [Martell] is one of our best players, you have to find a way to get him in the game,” Meyer said. “We have all kinds of ideas. A guy like that is easy to get in the game.”