LOS ANGELES — Ryan Day knows an NFL quarterback when he sees one.
As an NFL quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, Day, Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and incoming head coach, said he spent time studying Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
After watching redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins lead the Ohio State offense averaged 373 passing yards per game, currently No. 2 in the country with room to improve with a Rose Bowl still to be played, after watching his quarterback become one of three quarterbacks in the country to throw for more than 4,000 yards this season, Day knows one thing for sure.
Haskins is an NFL quarterback.
Specifically, Day said he sees Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan: putting Haskins in the same category in terms of their anticipation, their accuracy and the way they throw the ball.
Day views that as Haskins’ inevitable future. But a future that has not been decided upon yet.
“When and how and the situation, obviously, is something that we have to look at after the Rose Bowl,” Day said. “But when you look at what he’s done this season, it’s been very, very impressive.”
There seems to be two sides to the decision Haskins could make: He could stay at Ohio State for his redshirt junior season and have another opportunity at a national championship or a Heisman Trophy or he could leave for the NFL as what many call the top quarterback prospect for 2019.
For many, viewing Haskins as the top quarterback in the 2019 draft is a new concept after Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert was expected to be the first one taken in April.
However, after Herbert announced he would remain for another season with the Ducks, all eyes turned to Haskins, the quarterback who made a meteoric rise from obscurity, waiting behind former Ohio State quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Joe Burrow for a shot, to a Heisman finalist.
But in Haskins’ mind, he was already ahead of Herbert.
“I thought I was the best quarterback in the country regardless of what Herbert did,” Haskins said. “I’m happy he made that decision for himself but his decision had nothing to do with me. I’m just blessed to be a Buckeye, whether that’s coming back or not, it’s just a great opportunity for me.”
This level of confidence is nothing new. Haskins has never been one to hide his feelings, specifically regarding his play and the aspirations he has for himself, which are extremely high.
This level of confidence is something redshirt junior wide receiver K.J. Hill sees in how Haskins carries himself on and off the field and in how he leads the offense.
But Hill said he sees it most when he is behind center. He sees an NFL quarterback.
“How he steps in the pocket, how he’s not afraid to get hit,” Hill said. “He stands firm in there, the way he’s communicating on the field, pointing out stuff, telling people to get where they need to get, being a leader. At that level, I can see it.”
Haskins said he has always wanted to be viewed in this way, as a top quarterback, to have his work in the Ohio State offense be noticed by others.
“It definitely reinforces it, to have somebody say that much about you. But like I said, always felt that way about myself,” Haskins said.
Haskins said most of the conversations regarding his future have been inside his inner circle, from coaches and teammates to his family. But, at this point, his focus is on finishing the season at the Rose Bowl.
Day’s role in the process is not to convince Haskins to return for another season. He said it’s to provide him the reasons why he would like him to come back to Columbus.
But he did not consider it like a recruitment.
“You can’t self-servingly talk somebody into coming back. But you put the pros and the cons out there. You talk about what the advantages of coming back would be, some of the things that he has and opportunities in front of him,” Day said. “But we’re going to do a good job of putting those things out so he understands that we’d love to have him back.”
When talking about Haskins and what he had done for Ohio State in his first season as the starting quarterback, Day’s answers were in past tense, appropriate for looking back and reminiscing on the season.
But it could represent more. That in 13 games, Haskins molded himself from a second-string quarterback to an NFL starter.
“He’s grown a lot as a player but also as a young man,” Day said. “He’s a guy who came in as a sophomore with no collegiate starts and look in 13 games what he’s done.”