“Well, I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident, because when you get overconfident, that’s when something snaps up and bites you.” ~ Neil Armstrong
Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Neil Armstrong made the great state of Ohio proud when he became the first man to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. Other great events have been known to have taken place on July 20th, such as the birth of legendary Buckeye quarterback Troy Smith (1984), and let’s just say one part of a great podcast team known as The Silver Bullets Podcast.
Back to Neil Armstrong – during the moon landing, Armstrong’s heart rate ranged from 100 to 150 beats per minute, attesting to the perilous nature of the mission that he and NASA were undertaking. Not nearly as life threatening, but certainly under tremendous scrutiny, is the attention focused upon the next player to win the starting quarterback position for Ohio State this season. Whoever winds up taking the first snap of the 2018 season, we will have to wonder what the heart rate will be when they come out onto the field in Ohio Stadium.
Over the past few weeks, and continuing for a little bit longer, I am examining the various position groups within the team, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Game on April 14th. These pieces look at the position groups from positions of least concern to greatest concern, based upon the returning players, incoming recruits, and performances that were seen throughout the 2017 season.
With spring practice, the threat of injury is of paramount concern, and the possibilities of transfers during/following spring practice can have an impact upon the position rankings. As always, it is my sincere hope that these articles will spark discussion and dialogue, and I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I look forward to writing them. Onto the subject at hand, the Ohio State quarterbacks.
Players Lost: J.T. Barrett (eligibility)
Players Returning: Dwayne Haskins (Redshirt Sophomore), Joe Burrow (Redshirt Junior), Tate Martell (Redshirt Freshman)
Incoming Recruit: Matthew Baldwin
Why did I rank the quarterback position as a position of high concern? Let’s be honest, the last quarterback battle that took place before the 2015 season, between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, was a mystery up until the opening series.
Do you want to take it back even further when talking about a three man race for the starting quarterback spot? I remember how Ohio State went into the 1996 spring game, forecasting the quarterback battle to replace Bobby Hoying as being between incoming JUCO quarterback recruit Mark Garcia — the designated recruit by then-Ohio State quarterback coach Walt Harris, and Stanley Jackson, only to have Joe Germaine play tremendously well. In other words, Ohio State fans are going back over 20 years since the last time it was a true three-man quarterback battle such as we are seeing between Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow, and Tate Martell this spring.
So many other individuals have written about what Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow, and Tate Martell can, or will, bring to the quarterback position if they win the job. My man Shannon Sommers has not been shy on The Silver Bullets Podcast, or Accost The Field, in expressing his thoughts on why Joe Burrow should be the starter at quarterback.
My concerns go back beyond the 2015 season, even before Urban Meyer was named Ohio State’s head coach, to the time Meyer had to replace Tim Tebow at Florida. Tebow was seemingly joined at the hip with Meyer during close games. He was a tremendous leader, tough, and had the mobility at the position that Coach Meyer seemingly needs for his offense to function well.
Then came 2010 and John Brantley. Replacing the legendary Tebow was daunting enough, but coming in and having the offense sputter badly,just made the quarterback position even more of a target.
I think back to 2010 with Brantley and how the Florida offense did not play well. I remember how well Cardale Jones played during the 2014 national championship run against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon, but then I remember Jones not playing well in 2015, looking over his shoulder, fearful of making a mistake.
Am I the only Ohio State fan who felt the coaching staff handled that quarterback decision in 2015 poorly? Has Urban Meyer learned from the 2015 quarterback battle? Will he truly delegate this decision to Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day, or will his reliance upon the quarterback zone read as a staple of the offense be truly difficult to relinquish?
When asked on March 26th about the current quarterback battle, and looking back at the 2015 season, Meyer seemed to disagree that the coaching staff handled that 2015 quarterback battle poorly.
“I don’t have time to look back at that, no,” he said. “I know we won every game except for one, and I think Cardale Jones went undefeated as a starter. And J.T. Barrett was probably the most successful quarterback in Big Ten history. I think they probably did all right.”
For all of Barrett’s critics, Meyer seemed to have the same type of reverence and respect for Barrett as he did for Tim Tebow. For all of the people clamoring for Dwayne Haskins to become the starter based upon his superior arm strength and performance against Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2017, I am having a difficult time picturing an Ohio State offense with Urban Meyer as the head coach and not having the quarterback zone read play as a staple of the offense.
Maybe it’s because I have previously seen Meyer’s offenses when the quarterback was not effective with the zone read, and the results were not pretty.
It is because of the mobility of Joe Burrow, and his skill set at quarterback, which is similar enough to J.T. Barrett, that makes me believe Burrow is a viable contender in this quarterback battle. It is because of Tate Martell’s intangibles as a runner, despite his inexperience, that make me believe he is also very much in the running to win the job.
Mobility at the quarterback position has been so critical throughout Meyer’s head coaching career (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, Ohio State), and I have difficulty envisioning him going without that attribute or skill set at quarterback.
Drawing upon the words and wisdom of Neil Armstrong, overconfidence can cause some huge mistakes, and right now, the lack of a clear leader at the quarterback position this late into spring practice has me anything but overconfident.
Here is to hoping that the spring game on April 14th will help the coaching staff delineate the quarterback depth chart better going into fall camp, as well as the season opener against Oregon State.