JP Andrade awoke on a midweek morning in March to an unexpected text message.
It was from Justin Perez, an assistant director of player personnel at Ohio State who was interested in speaking with the quarterback. Andrade responded with excitement. Although he already was up in the predawn hours for a workout in suburban Los Angeles, he could have mistaken the exchange for a lingering dream.
“Am I just tired getting this text?” he wondered.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
It was no mirage. Ohio State coaches had viewed his game film and wanted to meet.
Less than a month later, Andrade accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Ohio State, ending his years-long quest to join a top-tier program and giving the Buckeyes a quarterback for their incoming freshman recruiting class. They had not signed a scholarship QB this winter after Dwan Mathis flipped to Georgia.
The development required a bit of a gamble by Andrade. When the signing period in February passed, he sat on offers from a handful of Division I schools, but none from a Power Five conference program. He also entertained a similar preferred walk-on offer from Florida.
Andrade envisioned himself at a bigger program, and with teams filling roster needs with preferred walk-ons later in the spring, he waited.
“He just believed, ‘I can play Division I. I want to do this. I can do this. I want to find out,’” said Steve Bogan, his coach at Bonita High School in La Verne, California.
Andrade had reason for hope. He had started for Bonita’s varsity team since he was a sophomore and had been productive. As a senior last fall, he threw for 4,366 yards, sixth-most among quarterbacks in California, according to MaxPreps, and was a regional offensive player of the year.
No recruiting service, though, rated him higher than a three-star prospect.
The people close to Andrade offered possible reasons. His father, John, thought his size might have presented an issue: The 6-foot-2 passer weighed only about 150 pounds as a sophomore, although he now is about 200 pounds. He’s also young for his grade: He turns 18 next month.
Bogan reasoned that college coaches too heavily prioritized arm strength. Andrade’s best attribute has not been his arm but his smarts, allowing him to be proficient in games. He had been training with private quarterback coaches, including former Florida State QB Chris Rix, since middle school.
“He’s just sharp,” Bogan said. “Quick. Decides fast.”
Andrade’s knowledge seemed to impress Ohio State quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich when he visited the school in late March. As Yurcich quizzed him on offensive situations and defensive coverages, Andrade often provided a quick answer. His parents, seated in the meeting room, sensed that their son and Yurcich were hitting it off, based on the coach’s reactions.
“He kept saying, ‘Excellent, excellent, very good,’” John Andrade said.
Andrade’s arrival this summer largely provides the Buckeyes with immediate depth. They’ll now have five quarterbacks on the roster.
Bogan expects Andrade to be sharp enough to serve as a scout-team quarterback, a task that involves running the upcoming opponent’s offense.
“He’ll be able to learn what the other team is trying to do,” Bogan said. “He’ll be able to replicate it very easily.”
After months of waiting, Andrade had found his path to big-time college football.