Analysis: Loss of Ewers, Miller more a sign of the times, not a reason for panic, for OSU

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch
Quinn Ewers played in only one game for Ohio State before deciding to transfer. He took the final two snaps of the 56-7 victory over Michigan State, both handoffs.

In the last week, two of Ohio State’s four scholarship quarterbacks have decided to transfer.

It's not as troubling as it might seem at first glance.

On Monday, redshirt freshman Jack Miller entered the transfer portal. On Friday, Ohio State confirmed Quinn Ewers would follow Miller out the door.

Miller’s departure was no surprise. Even before his suspension following an OVI arrest last month, He was at best the third in the quarterback pecking order. His suspension was lifted, but he did not make the trip to Ann Arbor for Ohio State’s loss to Michigan, though the reason for that is unclear.

Ewers’ exit is a bit murkier if only because he was the highest-rated recruit Ohio State has had since prospect rankings became prominent in the last couple of decades. 

If not for the establishment of name, image and likeness rights this year, Ewers would likely be finishing his senior season at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas. But Ewers decided to enroll early at Ohio State because he wasn’t eligible for NIL rights as a high-schooler. Endorsement contracts signed after he arrived reportedly made him a millionaire.

But Ewers’ arrival just after training camp began made for an awkward situation. Ohio State was in the midst of a quarterback competition featuring C.J. Stroud, Kyle McCord and Miller.

After Ohio State's bowl game, quarterback C.J. Stroud, who’ll likely be a Heisman Trophy finalist, will return for his redshirt sophomore season. He’ll be eligible to enter the NFL draft after that.

Though it was clear Stroud was the front-runner, that battle needed to play out. Ewers was just trying to find his way around campus and was in no position to compete for the job. During the season, McCord and Miller got the vast majority of the backup practice reps behind Stroud.

Ewers played in only one game. He took the final two snaps of the 56-7 victory over Michigan State, handing off on both. (Future trivia question: Who got those carries? Answer: Robert Cope, a senior walk-on from Dublin Jerome.)

On the surface, losing two quarterbacks who were blue-chip prospects seems alarming for Ohio State and coach Ryan Day. Really, it isn’t.

It was always a given that the Buckeyes wouldn’t retain all four current scholarship quarterbacks for the 2022 season, especially with the commitment Wednesday of Devin Brown. The questions really were whether the Buckeyes would lose two or three, and when. A source close to McCord told The Dispatch the true freshman intends to stay at Ohio State. But that, and anything related to quarterbacks, should be prefaced by acknowledging nothing is set in stone.

The ability to transfer without sitting out a year has changed everything. Only one quarterback at a time can play, and coaches grudgingly accept how difficult it will be to retain quality depth.

A source close to quarterback Kyle McCord (6) told The Dispatch that the true freshman intends to stay at Ohio State next season.

So where does Ohio State’s quarterback situation stand?

Stroud, who’ll likely be a Heisman Trophy finalist, will return for his redshirt sophomore season. He’ll be eligible to enter the NFL draft after that. If he continues to develop the way he did this year, that’s likely to happen.

That leaves McCord and Brown to compete to become the heir apparent to Stroud. McCord was a five-star prospect from St. Joseph’s Prep, an elite program in Philadelphia. He started the Akron game this year while Stroud rested an ailing shoulder. It was not a flawless performance, but McCord threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns and was named Big Ten freshman of the week.

Brown, the No. 5 quarterback and No. 52 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings, is an intriguing prospect. Like McCord, he comes from a top program, Corner Canyon in Draper, Utah.

The school has been open for only eight years but has already produced quarterbacks Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick of the 2021 NFL draft by the New York Jets, and Jaxson Dart, who’s at USC.

Brown was a USC commit until Trojans coach Clay Helton was fired during the season and Brown reopened his recruitment. In his senior season, Brown passed for a Utah state-record 4,881 yards in leading his team to the Class 6A state finals. He threw 57 touchdown passes and also ran for 430 yards and five scores.

Brown and Ewers threw at the Elite 11 competition last summer, and Brown outperformed Ewers. If Ewers hadn’t decided to enroll early at Ohio State, the Buckeyes wouldn’t have pursued Brown or any other quarterback for its 2022 class.

Brown's addition boosted Ohio State to No. 4 in the 247Sports team rankings. Early signing day is December 15.

No program wants to lose a player like Ewers, who is reportedly looking to transfer to a program in his home state. It's worth noting that Ewers originally committed to Texas before flipping to Ohio State last November. 

His departure, like Miller’s, is simply a product of the times.

In August, Day explained his philosophy.

"When we recruit guys, the first thing we tell them is that we're going to recruit the best players in the country," he said. "My job as the head coach of Ohio State is to bring in really good players, and these guys are here to compete with everybody in that room.

"We certainly don't want to lose anybody. That's not why we bring guys in here. We bring them in here to develop, and I feel like guys develop here as good as anybody in the country."

But Day realizes attrition is inevitable. What matters for Ohio State is who remains, and any program in the country would be pleased to have a quarterback room with Stroud, McCord and Brown.

Young to transfer

Ewers and Miller aren't the only Buckeyes who'll transfer. Safety Craig Young has informed Ohio State of his decision. Young competed for a prominent role, but the most snaps he played in a game was 26 against Michigan State.

Young, a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Indiana, was credited with 15 tackles (six solo) this season. He also had a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown against Maryland.

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at brabinowitz@dispatch.com or on Twitter @brdispatch.