A new day has dawned in the recruitment of quarterbacks, and that has nothing to do with Ryan Day being the new coach at Ohio State.
“It's pretty wild,” Day said Wednesday.
Day described the rush toward the early signing day as a “whirlwind,” but that might not compare with the eye of the storm that Ohio State has stepped into when it comes to landing a new quarterback.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
The Buckeyes were successful in securing three five-star players among the first 15 to sign with them Wednesday — defensive end Zach Harrison of Olentangy Orange; receiver Garrett Wilson of Lake Travis High School near Austin, Texas; and center Harry Miller of Buford, Georgia — but their sole option at quarterback, Dwan Mathis of Oak Park, Michigan, decided to go to Georgia instead.
It was no coincidence.
On Tuesday, Justin Fields, a five-star quarterback prospect who signed with Georgia in 2018 and played sparingly as a true freshman, entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal. Reports say he is considering Ohio State in addition to Oklahoma and Florida State.
Fields couldn’t be reached for comment, but it’s believed that wherever he ends up, he will apply for immediate eligibility based on recently relaxed transfer rules that include an exception for health, safety and well-being. Fields reportedly was the subject of a racial taunt during a game this season.
Beyond that, Fields is attempting to become the latest quarterback to transfer and seek a clearer path to playing time. Ohio State saw that in the spring when Joe Burrow left for LSU as a graduate transfer and started for the Tigers this season.
The Buckeyes are not only without Mathis, who had committed to OSU in June, but they also might lose starter Dwayne Haskins Jr., who could decide to leave for the NFL after the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Washington. Haskins, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, set Big Ten records for passing yards (4,580) and touchdown passes (47) in his first season as the starter.
Day said of quarterbacks: “We're going to always look to have four guys on the roster, and just like anything else, after Dwayne makes the decision, we'll go from there.”
Other than Haskins, the Buckeyes have redshirt-freshman backup Tate Martell, freshman Matthew Baldwin and graduate transfer Chris Chugunov under scholarship.
Fields might see a golden opportunity.
“The thing that's tough about quarterbacks is only one quarterback can play, and these guys, they want to play,” Day said. “I think that when recruits are being recruited, they need to understand that the best chance they have to go reach all their goals is to be at a place that can develop them. It isn't about getting on the field right away.”
For example, Haskins sat out his first season and played sparingly in his second until called on when J.T. Barrett was injured against Michigan. Haskins led Ohio State to a come-from-behind win and then emerged this season as a star.
“When he stepped on the field, he was ready,” Day said. “He had two years of development, and he played his best football. And I think it's so important for young quarterbacks to get developed, not just go from place to place when things don't go well. That being said, one quarterback can play, and so it's sensitive, and it's a very unique situation.”