Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins talks to reporters on Thursday, March 22, 2018, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Ohio State still evaluating quarterbacks early in spring practices

Haskins the front-runner to land the starting job

For now, it’s a three-player race on paper, even if all signs point to Dwayne Haskins being the guy when the Buckeyes open the season Sept. 1 against Oregon State in Columbus. Haskins himself sees himself as the starter, though he knows he still has to win the job.

“I’m thinking I’m the guy,” Haskins said Thursday after practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. “That’s my mindset.”

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Haskins backed up J.T. Barrett last season as a redshirt freshman and engineered a comeback victory at Michigan in the regular-season finale. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 94 yards and rushed three times for 22 yards. That one performance remains the biggest reason he’s expected to start over Joe Burrow and Tate Martell.

The coaches haven’t anointed Haskins just yet, though.

“He did a nice job in that game,” quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said. “Now this is a new year. These guys have to come out and compete. Just like anything else, what have you done for me lately? So he has to prove himself just like the other guys.”

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The Buckeyes started spring practices March 5 and will continue practicing until April 14 when they play the spring game at 1:45 p.m. at Ohio Stadium. The quarterbacks will continue to compete until that game. They’re a long way from finding out who will be the starter.

“It’s still early, but the guys are working hard,” Day said. “We’re splitting up the reps. We’ve got two practices under our belts with pads on. It’s really early. We’re still installing stuff. The guys are working at it. They’re trying to get better.”

Day wants the starter to be a great leader. Haskins has worked to turn himself into one.

“I feel like I’m a very good leader,” Haskins said. “I feel I do a great job of getting involved with all my teammates. I feel I’m pretty close with everybody, including offensive line, tight ends, running backs and receivers. To be a leader, you have to have relationships with your teammates, and if there’s a disconnect, they won’t follow you.”

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All three quarterbacks have impressive resumes, even if their college experience is limited.

Burrow, who will be a redshirt junior next season, was a four-star prospect who led Athens High School to a state runner-up finish as a senior in 2014. Martell, who redshirted as a freshman last fall, won three national player of the year awards as a senior at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev. ESPN rated Haskins, of Potomac, Md., the fourth-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class of 2016.

Whoever wins the job will replace J.T. Barrett, who led the Buckeyes to the Big Ten championship as a senior and a Cotton Bowl victory against Southern California. Barrett finished his career with almost every passing record in Ohio State history.

“When we’re looking at quarterbacks,” Day said, “we’re looking at guys who are competitors, guys who are tough, guys who are leaders, guys who have great football intelligence and also guys who are great decision makers. You can tell we have different shapes and sizes. It’s our job as coaches to come up with the right plays to emphasize what they do best.”

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