Is Dwayne Haskins Heisman Bound?

by Derrik Klassen

Folks in Columbus knew what Dwayne Haskins Jr. would become before this season. A heralded four-star recruit in 2016, he had been the quarterback-in-waiting behind J.T. Barrett for the past two years. Haskins served as the team’s backup last season and tore up the competition when given the chance, throwing for 565 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception on 57 attempts in relief of Barrett. Of course, clean-up quarterback duty can be taken with a grain of salt, but Haskins flashed the arm strength and decisiveness to carry Ohio State’s offense when his opportunity came. 

What is already clear about Ohio State’s offense with Haskins at the helm is how much they trust him. Though just a redshirt sophomore, Haskins has been tasked with a breadth of full field progressions and a stress on the intermediate area of the field. Haskins has proven right away that he can handle the intense offensive design and make any throw on the field. The offense is no longer repressed the way it was with Barrett for the past several years. 

This particular concept is a favorite of Ohio State’s. To the weak side of the formation is a smash-fade concept, while the strong side features two 14-yard in-routes from the inside receivers and a vertical route by the outermost receiver of the trips set. Haskins’ first read is the slot fade to his left, but if that is capped vertically, he returns to the other side of the formation to the two receivers over the middle of the field. 

Here is Haskins throwing to both sides of the pass concept. In the first example, the slot fade is capped vertically by the safety’s alignment and the receiver has no room to run by the safety because of the back of the end zone condensing the field. Haskins recognizes the slot fade is taken away and makes a smooth transition back toward the middle of the field. In coming back to the middle of the field, Haskins understands that his receiver can run under the deep safety and be thrown open near the left hash marks. Haskins rips it without hesitation and puts the ball right in the wide receiver’s chest for a touchdown. 

Conversely, the slot fade is open in the second example because Ohio State has more field to work with. Tulane again attempts to cap the slot fade by alignment, but because the wide receiver now has 50-plus yards of field to work with, he can fly by the safety and win vertically. Haskins trusts his receiver to be able to separate from the defensive back and slings the ball as soon as the wide receiver gets even with the defender. 50 yards later, Haskins’ throw finds wide receiver Paris Campbell perfectly in stride for another Buckeyes score. 

Related: Peeking into the Playbook: The Newest Wrinkle in the Spread Offense

Between the number of full-field progressions and intermediate-to-deep passing concepts in Ohio State’s offense, it is impressive for Haskins to be able to run the offense at any capacity. More impressive, though, is how immensely productive Haskins has been through four games with such an offense. Haskins is well on his way to a Heisman bid despite having only thrown three passes in the fourth quarter this season due to how quickly he is dismantling opponents. 

Below is a table of each of the past five Heisman-winning quarterbacks and their passing stat lines through the first four games of their winning seasons. Following the previous five winners is an average stat line of the previous five winners, with Haskins’ current stat line at the very bottom. 

Player (Year)

Stat Line (Yards, TD, INT, AY/A)

Johnny Manziel (2012)

1094 yards, 10 TD, 0 INT, 10.44 AY/A

Jameis Winston (2013)

1048 yards, 12 TD, 2 INT, 13.16 AY/A

Marcus Mariota (2014)

1135 yards, 13 TD, 0 INT, 14.53 AY/A

Lamar Jackson (2016)

1330 yards, 13 TD, 3 INT, 11.55 AY/A

Baker Mayfield (2017)

1329 yards, 13 TD, 0 INT, 15.73 AY/A

Average of Past Five

1187.2 yards, 12.2 TD, 1 INT, 13.08 AY/A

Dwayne Haskins (2018)

1194 yards, 16 TD, 1 INT, 12.77 AY/A

Haskins is on track to match or exceed the passing stat line of recent Heisman-winning quarterbacks. His AY/A (adjusted yards per attempt) is a hair under the average of his peers, but Haskins has thrown nearly four touchdowns more than previous winners through this point in the season. None of the five previous winners threw more than 13 passing touchdowns through their first four games, yet Haskins already has 16. Granted, Haskins does not match the rushing production of names such as Lamar Jackson and Johnny Manziel, but his passing production is well up to standard and he has shown all the skills to keep it up through the heart of Ohio State’s Big Ten schedule. 

It also helps that Haskins has a stunning arm that allows him to make memorable throws. Whether it is conscious or not, Heisman favorability is swayed by how many peak plays or amazing traits pop during important games. Versus a top-15 ranked TCU squad, Haskins already put together a number of moments that he can ride throughout his Heisman campaign. 

Take this throw, for example. Not one minute into the game, Haskins took a shot against a tough TCU defense and laced a throw right over double coverage. Ohio State was not able to punch it in for a touchdown over the next few plays, but Haskins’ willingness to attack TCU early on was a good indication of his confidence as a passer. That is the type of throw that gets the viewer to sit up in their seat and want to see more of what that player is capable of. 

Related: Stopping the RPO: How TCU Reshaped Their Defense to Defend Run-Pass Options

Later in the game, Ohio State got themselves into a 3rd-and-16 situation right before the half. With the ball at their own 49-yard line and 25 seconds left on the clock, Ohio State’s only option to put up points was to miraculously convert the 3rd-and-long and get into field goal position. A quarterback should never be expected to convert a first down from that distance, so it appeared as though Ohio State’s drive was over as soon as they got into 3rd-and-16. 

Haskins is not a typical college quarterback, however. Haskins can rip the ball toward the sideline with ease, and has the trigger and confidence to attempt a throw past the sticks on 3rd-and-16 with points on the line. To throw this ball with such clinical timing and accuracy is a rarity at the college level, but for Haskins, it is the norm. Again, Ohio State failed to convert on Haskins’ throw as they missed a 38-yard field goal attempt a few plays later, but Haskins’ effort was impressive and uncommon regardless of the drive’s outcome. 

With an already loaded résumé heading into this weekend, Haskins has another key opportunity to raise his Heisman profile. Ohio State travels to Happy Valley this weekend to take on No.9 ranked Penn State, who serve as the Buckeyes’ primary competition for the Big Ten East title. Both teams currently hold a 4-0 record and would earn a massive advantage in the division with a win. 

Related: Will the NFL Ever Stop Manufacturing Passing Efficiency?

If Haskins can piece together another monster performance against a top-ranked team and division rival, he will firmly place himself at the front of the Heisman race. Though TCU was a good test of Haskins’ abilities, this game versus Penn State is his most important to date and likely the most important he will play until the postseason. 

Every Heisman campaign has a season-defining game that voters can turn to. This is Haskins’ opportunity to seize the nation.