As this point in the process of finding a new starting quarterback and center, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday that he is more concerned about who is going to start the play than who is going to execute it.
“I think I’m more stressed about center,” Meyer said after putting his team through its first spring practice. “I think when you have quality players going at it, there is no stress at all. When you’re worried about who is going to be your center — that’s my focus.”
Last season’s All-Big Ten battery of center Billy Price, the Rimington Trophy winner, and quarterback J.T. Barrett, the holder of several Big Ten and Ohio State records, are gone.
But Meyer likes the stable at quarterback: sophomore Dwayne Haskins Jr., who helped save the day at Michigan last season; junior Joe Burrow, the backup in 2016 whose broken hand in preseason last year set him back; and Tate Martell, who was redshirted as a freshman last year but flashed playmaking ability in practices.
“I think we’ll be fine at quarterback,” Meyer said. “Who is it going to be? I don’t know, but I know they work really hard. And I see about two or three guys that think they should be the quarterback. So I spend more time at the positions that — I don’t know who’s going to be our center. I know we have some people that are gonna go after it.”
In back-to-back seasons the Buckeyes produced the Rimington winner, first converted guard Pat Elflein in 2016 and then converted guard Price last year.
Brady Taylor, Price’s understudy in 2017, gained the first nod Tuesday, but Matt Burrell, freshman Matthew Jones and Josh Myers are going to get some chances. Meyer said he also spoke with tackle Joshua Alabi about taking a shot.
“It's a lot of stress when — center is every bit important as quarterback,” Meyer said. “I don't know if they’re great players or not.”
The stress in identifying the No. 1 quarterback could be the time. For example, Meyer said, the ideal would be having that player identified by the end of spring so he can get on with being the leader. Yet Meyer also likes the idea of having two or three deserving players going at it neck and neck into preseason camp, because he is a strong believer in competition making everyone better.
But Burrow is on track to earn his degree this spring, which would give him the option to transfer and play immediately at another major school with two years of eligibility remaining if he doesn’t get the Ohio State job. That’s why Meyer was asked if that would be a consideration in letting all know where they stand after spring.
“Without getting too deep, we’ve had conversations with his family, but we try to be as transparent with you guys without getting too nose-deep into our meetings, but the answer is probably yes,” Meyer said. “My first obligation is Ohio State. But not far below that is the player and the family.”