By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins is giving the Buckeyes glimpses of 2014 Cardale Jones as they roll into the Big Ten Championship game against No. 3 Wisconsin.
Again, the starter J.T. Barrett is hurt and coach Urban Meyer hasn’t committed fully to his return, even though he’s practicing. Haskins, like Jones three years ago, is waiting with a rifle arm and coming off a strong showing against Michigan last week, leading a comeback to give No. 8 Ohio State a win over its biggest rival — and fans a potential look at the future.
In 2014, Barrett broke his ankle against Michigan and Jones finished the game, then beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten title and carried the Buckeyes to a national championship.
Even without the injury, it’s easy to argue for Barrett or Haskins to start, and it’s conceivable both could play depending on whether Barrett is fully healthy. Wisconsin is prepping for both.
Meyer said he has confidence in Haskins after seeing the redshirt freshman beat Michigan after coming in the game down 20-14 in the third quarter.
“I can’t say it’s comfort yet, but to see him perform in that environment, and more importantly against that (Michigan) defense….That’s an elite defense,” Meyer said.
Barrett has much more experience as a fifth-year senior who has broken nearly every school passing and scoring record. On Thursday he was named Big Ten quarterback of the year by the conference for the third time. He said he initially was injured when a photographer bumped into him on the sideline before the game.
But his inconsistency led to losses this season to Oklahoma and Iowa, and Ohio State’s sliver of hope for the College Football Playoff rests on a big win by the Buckeyes and chaotic losses in other conference championships this weekend.
Wisconsin players said they will prepare for Barrett — who often carries the ball on designed quarterback runs and keeps it on run-pass option plays — but also be ready for Haskins, a pure pocket passer with a stronger arm.
“They’re still going to be doing some of the same things scheme-wise and have two capable guys who can play that position,” Badgers linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “We just have to make sure we’re locked in like any other week.”
Haskins has already provided a flash of Ohio State’s likely football future after a performance that included a pinpoint 27-yard pass to keep a drive alive and a scramble for 22 yards to set up a touchdown.
“I had the O-line, I had the receivers. Everybody else was behind me the whole entire way,” Haskins said in describing why he wasn’t nervous.
Even if Haskins doesn’t see the field again this season, he will have the edge in what promises to be an intriguing quarterback derby next year after Barrett departs.
Redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow has been waiting his turn. He was the backup to Barrett until breaking his hand early in the season, which moved Haskins to second chair. Then there is flashy freshman Tate Martell, who likely will be redshirted this year. He has won raves from teammates for his skill running the scout team offense. Any one of them could start on most Division I teams, so it wouldn’t be shocking if one transferred elsewhere.
For now, Haskins has the upper hand.
“He was able to out there and scramble, make a couple runs, make some nice throws,” offensive tackle Jamarco Jones said. “Our offense didn’t really change much at all when he was in there.”