COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The backup quarterback derby at Ohio State continues furiously in preseason camp without definitive word on whether Joe Burrow or Dwayne Haskins will be No. 2.
The starting job is firmly held by J.T. Barrett, of course, but Burrow, Haskins and true freshman Tate Martell have battled throughout preseason camp for backup duty — and more importantly, to position themselves to start next year when Barrett is gone.
Coach Urban Meyer on Monday wouldn’t say who has the edge heading into the third full week of camp. He said he’s looking for the most consistent performer.
“We have a big scrimmage coming up this Saturday, and that’s going to be a huge part of it,” Meyer said. “That unit is playing very strong right now.”
New quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said it’s not critical to name a backup quarterback any time soon. The focus is just to get them all ready.
“Someone could roll an ankle tomorrow. Anything can happen. So right now we’re just focused on one day at a time, getting better,” Day said. “We’re in preseason camp, and then we’ll pick our head up pretty soon and figure it out.”
Ohio State found out how critical backup QBs could be in 2014 when Cardale Jones emerged from the bottom of the depth chart after injuries to Braxton Miller and Barrett to win the final three games and the national championship.
Martell may be the most heralded freshman to show up at Ohio State in years. He’s undersized (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) but the high school phenom is fast and slippery. Getting up to speed and earning playing time against established QBs Burrow and Haskins will be difficult and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him redshirted.
Burrow, a redshirt sophomore, seems like the safe bet. The coach’s son from Athens, Ohio, was the backup last year and was the first guy in for mop-up duty. Haskins hasn’t yet taken a game snap.
Burrow said the importance of the QB derby for next year’s team isn’t lost on him.
“It creeps into my mind every once in a while,” he said, “but I try to get rid of it as soon as it does and focus on putting one step in front of the other and competing every day.”
Haskins acknowledged that it’s hard to be patient.
“You come in know you were the guy in high school, and you got three other guys who are in the same room as you who might be just as good as you if not better,” he said. “So it’s not about your talent anymore when you get here. It’s about doing what you can do in the meetings and the weight room and off the field and just getting prepared.”
AND WHAT ABOUT RIGHT GUARD?
Meyer also wasn’t ready yet to name a starter at right guard, a slot that came open when Billy Price moved over to center after All-American Pat Elflein departed.
Malcolm Pridgeon, a junior-college transfer who redshirted last year recovering an injury, is in completion, along with Demetrius Knox, Matthew Burrell and Branden Bowen.
“We’re still getting it solidified,” Meyer said.
GAME PREP BEGINS
With a little more than two weeks until the opener, Meyer said preparations for the game officially began Monday.
“It’s game-ready week,” he said. “We put in two-minute (offense) today. We started to install against Indiana’s base defense. We’ve been together a long time, and it’s time to start getting ready to go play a game.”
More AP college football at www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy