Hooley: Who's your backup? Don't ask Urban

Urban Meyer is firmly behind J.T. Barrett, but won't say which backup is directly behind his starter

As a sports fan, I'm sure you've heard that a game is never over until it's over. But in the case of Ohio State football the next two weeks, the game won't get interesting until it's uninteresting. 

You can be fashionably late Saturday when OSU plays host to UNLV and you can turn on your television after halftime next week when the Buckeyes play at Rutgers. In both cases, despite your tardy arrival, you won't miss a thing. 

Well, you won't miss a thing that really matters, anyway. 

That's because the game within the game is a whole lot more interesting than either the UNLV game or the Rutgers game, both of which Ohio State should have well in hand by halftime. 

But stick around...don't leave...because that's when head coach Urban Meyer will have to do what he's been resistant to do since pre-season practice started. 

Once the blowout is secure against UNLV and Rutgers, Meyer will finally have to divulge whether he considers sophomore Joe Burrow or freshman Dwayne Haskins OSU's backup quarterback. 

You know that J.T. Barrett is the starter. You know it, but you may not like it. Barrett has been around longer than the measles and he's just about as popular with some Ohio State fans because his passing skills aren't what they consider national championship caliber. 

So, that's the motivation for fans to pick a favorite among the backups, and on that they are not shy, even though their head coach is. 

A recent Twitter poll on Spielman & Hooley show showed that 68% of fans think Barrett is holding OSU's offense back. Another Twitter poll showed that 41% percent want Haskins to start the remainder of the season and 21% want Burrow to start the rest of the season. 

Haskins, mind you, has thrown four passes in his career -- all complete -- and Burrow hasn't played since late last season. 

But a combined 62% of fans would rather those guys play than Barrett, who is only the Big Ten's career leader in touchdowns accounted for, and the only three-time captain in OSU history. 

That latter distinction tells you how much Meyer loves Barrett, and the fact he won't distinguish between Burrow and Haskins as Barrett's backup tells you how much Meyer loves Burrow and Haskins. 

You see, Urban Meyer is a quarterback polygamist. He loves them all. And he wants them all for himself. Quarterbacks are like Solomon's wives to Urban Meyer. He will take as many as he can get, and the more beautiful they are, the better. 

That's why he recruited the nation's No. 1 player -- not just the nation's No. 1 quarterback -- in freshman Tate Martell with Barrett, Burrow and Haskins already in OSU's quarterback room. 

Martell is now redshirting at OSU so he can save a year of eligibility. So next year, when Barrett is gone, Martell can compete with Burrow, Haskins and incoming freshman Emory Jones, who's so good that Alabama is trying to get him to rescind his commitment to Ohio State so he can play for Nick Saban. 

The problem becomes trying to keep all these quarterbacks happy, which Meyer is working hard to do at a position where only one guy can play at a time. 

Every time Urban talks about J.T. Barrett, Urban gushes. 

Every time Urban talks about Dwayne Haskins, he's highly complimentary, but Meyer also makes sure to mention that Haskins isn't a guarantee to play as Barrett's backup on Saturday because Burrow is back from his broken hand. And, hey, Joe Burrow looks good, too. 

If you don't believe me, just watch: 

And, of course, don't forget Martell, who Urban doesn't want to think is hopelessly buried on the depth chart. So shortly after praising Barrett, and Burrow, and Haskins, Urban always makes certain to drop a compliment on Martell's doorstep about what a great job he's doing running the scout team. 

This isn't really all that surprising and it certainly isn't all that new. 

When he was coaching Florida, Urban recruited Tim Tebow and Cam Newton in the same recruiting class. 

That's right, two Heisman Trophy winners in one class. 

Newton opened the way for Tebow to play as much as he did by stealing a laptop and getting thrown out of school, hence forcing his transfer to Auburn. 

So far at OSU, no one shows any inclination toward leaving, so Meyer has an embarrassment of riches at the QB position, which is a nice problem to have. 

It's vastly superior to having no capable quarterbacks at all, but an embarrassment of riches might still prove a bit embarrassing if two guys get impatient and transfer. 

After all, a nice problem to have is still a problem. 

And Urban knows it. And so, like a duck swimming away from a predator, he's paddling furiously below eye level to keep his quarterbacks happy, while appearing not the least bit bothered outwardly. Because Urban is and always will be the Don Draper of college football coaches, which is to say he's the coolest guy in the room. 

But the time if coming where Meyer will have to pick someone from the crowded field of candidates lining up to replace Barrett. 

And that time will arrive once the blowout is secure against UNLV Saturday and Rutgers next week. 


Bruce Hooley

Bruce Hooley

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