Haskins debuts as starter as Buckeyes face OSU

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Buckeyes welcome back 49 letterwinners from the 2017 Big Ten and Cotton Bowl champions, including six starters on offense and four on defense, as they open the 2018 college football season on Saturday at home against Oregon State.

And while much of the college football world is focused on the fact that head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season, most Buckeye fans are anxious to see how new quarterback Dwayne Haskins fares in his debut as a starter.

The game against the Beavers is at noon Saturday on ABC.

Haskins is replacing one of OSU’s all-time greats at the quarterback position, J.T. Barrett. He stepped in for an injured Barrett last year against Michigan and led the Buckeyes to a huge road victory.

“Really good camp for him. We’ve really seen him mature. He makes some of those throws that are just crazy,” senior wide reciever Johnnie Dixon said this week about the sophomore quarterback. “One day he threw a pass to Austin (Mack) where he was looking this way and threw it that way. He has the talent and he’s ready to unleash it September 1.”

Haskins will have plenty of support as sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins, who set a freshmen record with 1,403 yards rushing last season, returns, along with the starter the previous season, Mike Weber, was the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year when he rushed for 1,096 yards.

The wide receiver unit returns all seven lettermen, including a trio of fifth-year senior captains in Terry McLaurin, Dixon and Parris Campbell. The leading receiver, fourth-year junior K.J. Hill (56 receptions) is also back this year.

Along the defensive line, returning first-team All-American Nick Bosa and fourth-year junior Dre’Mont Jones have combined for 43 career tackles for loss and will be bolstered by the emergence of sophomore Chase Young, junior Robert Landers and junior Jonathan Cooper.

Jonathan Smith makes his debut as a collegiate head coach on Saturday, leading a team coming off a 1-11 season. The Beavers return 49 letterwinners, including 17 starters, from that squad.

Smith, who was hired in November, comes to Oregon State after a successful tenue as the off ensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Washington from 2014-17. During his tenure, the Huskies won the Pac-12 title in 2016 and earned a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Smith’s Oregon State roots run deep, as he was a four-year letterman quarterback from 1998 through 2001. A walk-on, he started 39 consecutive games and left as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdown passes, single-game passing (469 yards vs. Washington) and single-season passing (3,053 yards).

Jake Luton, a senior from Marysville, Wash., is the most experienced quarterback on the Oregon State roster. He completed nearly 62 percent of his passes in 2017, throwing for 853 yards and four touchdowns. Conor Blount, a sophomore, also lettered last year as a true freshman.

Saturday marks the third meeting between Ohio State and Oregon State. In the 1984 season opener, the Buckeyes overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit and got second-half touchdown runs from Keith Byars and John Wooldridge in a 22-14 win.

In 1974, Archie Griffin ran 16 times for 134 yards and scored one TD as Ohio State opened up a 23-3 halftime lead and defeated Oregon State 51-10 in its home-opener at Ohio Stadium.