Ohio State’s pursuit of a quarterback for its 2019 recruiting class already had moved into the realm of needy before junior Joe Burrow announced this week he is transferring in search of a better chance at playing time.
But any signings in the coming class won’t fill the void this season. The Buckeyes will have to make do with third-year sophomore Dwayne Haskins, redshirt freshman Tate Martell and 2018 freshman Matthew Baldwin — coming off a knee injury in December — as the scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
Though it has been suggested that Burrow’s transfer could open the door for a graduate transfer to come to Ohio State, Bucknuts recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic said the negative dynamic is that a graduate transfer usually is looking for an opportunity to start, just as Burrow is.
“I think they would be in the market for any quarterback they think can help the program, be it a graduate transfer, a junior-college transfer, or someone for 2019,” Kurelic said. Offensive co-coordinator and quarterbacks coach “Ryan Day likely will go coast to coast and look at every option he can.”
Like most programs, Ohio State prefers to have at least four scholarship QBs, spaced a year apart to cover contingencies; the Buckeyes had that until Tuesday. The problem OSU has been dealing with is zeroing in on a prospect in a 2019 recruiting cycle in which the pool of high-end quarterback talent seems down.
“It’s a tough year,” Rivals analyst Marc Givler said. “The one guy I thought was pretty special going into 2019 was J.T. Daniels, and he ended up reclassifying.”
Daniels, from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, plans to graduate from high school later this month, enroll at Southern California in June and begin fall camp with the Trojans in August.
The Buckeyes saw the No. 1 prospect on their board, Sam Howell of Monroe, North Carolina, commit last month to Florida State. They have put out several other offers, some to players already committed to other schools, such as Max Duggan (Texas Christian) of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Dwan Mathis (Michigan State) of Belleville, Michigan; and Graham Mertz (Wisconsin) of Mission, Kansas.
And they’re still in on Grant Gunnell of Houston, who is being pursued by LSU and others.
But as Kurelic and Givler noted, Ohio State coaches seem undecided on who to take. Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports director of recruiting, agreed.
“I think they’re still evaluating. I think they’re looking everywhere,” Wiltfong said. “Ryan Day and company have logged a lot of miles to see several guys throw, and he and the staff are scouring for (someone) they think can win at the QB-1 position in Columbus.
“I don’t see them taking a guy to take a guy; that would be desperate. It’s obvious the Buckeyes want to take one and they are digging in. Perhaps it’s a young man already committed to a program not as prestigious as Ohio State. Perhaps it’s a late bloomer.”
Truth is, quarterback recruiting has been an adventure for Ohio State since Urban Meyer took over as coach in 2012. Consider:
• The Buckeyes found J.T. Barrett for 2013 after they decided not to heavily pursue Mitch Trubisky of Mentor, who instead went to North Carolina and became the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft with the Chicago Bears.
• They tried to get in on Deshaun Watson (Clemson) for 2014 but signed instead Stephen Collier.
• In 2015 they signed the QB they wanted, Burrow.
• In 2016 they flipped Haskins from Maryland in the last two months, but only because the Terrapins had a coaching change.
• They flipped Martell from Texas A&M for the 2017 class.
• A year ago, longtime commit Emory Jones lost interest late in the process and signed with Florida. The Buckeyes then turned to Baldwin, a three-star recruit because he spent only one season as a starter in high school.
“They’re still out there beating the bushes and trying to line up possibilities,” Kurelic said. “It has been interesting so far.”