Ryan Day began his tenure as Ohio State’s football coach this year with a recruiting coup.
Day brought in Justin Fields, a highly sought transfer from Georgia who had been among the top-ranked high school quarterbacks in his graduating class in 2018. The move gave the Buckeyes their potential replacement for Dwayne Haskins Jr., the record-setting passer who after one season as a starter left for the NFL, bypassing his final two seasons of eligibility.
Day’s next addition to the quarterback room will be less high-profile, but significant.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
When Matthew Baldwin announced Thursday that he intended to transfer from Ohio State, it left the Buckeyes with only three quarterbacks on the roster, including two on scholarship. To shore up depth, Day plans to look for available graduate transfers who can join the program this summer and be eligible to play when the season begins Aug. 31 against Florida Atlantic.
The quarterbacks on the roster behind Fields are Chris Chugunov, a senior who joined the Buckeyes last season as a graduate transfer from West Virginia, and Danny Vanatsky, a walk-on from Cincinnati who will be a sophomore.
The challenge for Day will be to find a quarterback interested in joining the Buckeyes without the likelihood of starting. After Baldwin’s departure, Fields is the front-runner to start.
Recent history suggests it won’t be an easy maneuver. Of the 32 quarterbacks who left Division I schools as graduate transfers in the previous two offseasons, 20 ended up at programs outside the Power Five conferences, according to gradtransfertracker.com.
Among those 20, their destinations likely presented better opportunities for a starting role as opposed to a Power Five school. Playing time is often cited as a chief motivation among transfers.
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Gradtransfertracker.com lists nine quarterbacks who have not committed to new schools, but the Buckeyes’ options may not be that limited. The website does not include Southern California quarterback Matt Fink or Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens, each of whom announced plans to transfer in recent days. The NCAA does not keep public a list of graduate transfers.
Most of the uncommitted quarterbacks listed by the website lack significant starting experience.
Two of the veteran passers in the group were Kilton Anderson, who started six games for Coastal Carolina last fall, and Chris Oladokun, who started three games for South Florida. Jackson Tyner started twice for Rice in 2017. De’Andre Johnson, who was at Florida Atlantic for the previous two seasons and was featured on the Netflix series "Last Chance U,” was another notable name.
Other possibilities could emerge in the following weeks. Kentucky quarterback Gunnar Hoak, a fourth-year junior, is said to be mulling leaving the Wildcats as a graduate transfer after he completes his degree next month.
Hoak was the starting quarterback at Dublin Coffman in 2014 and ’15, and his father, Frank, was a former tight end for the Buckeyes. His uncle, Fred Pagac, and cousin, Fred Pagac Jr., also played for Ohio State.
If Day and his coaching staff are unable to sign a graduate transfer quarterback, it will leave them susceptible to injury at the position, but does not doom their College Football Playoff ambitions.
Clemson was hurt by similar departures last year. It lost Hunter Johnson in May, then Kelly Bryant after week 4 of the season, leaving the Tigers with only two scholarship quarterbacks. But Trevor Lawrence emerged as a star as a true freshman, and the Tigers went on to win the national championship.
The quarterback attrition for the Buckeyes leaves more pressure on Fields to remain healthy and live up to his promise, as Lawrence did.