Joe Burrow entered Ohio State football’s 2017 fall camp with a strong chance to seize the backup quarterback position. That meant that not only would he be the one to step in if J.T. Barrett suffered an injury during the season, he might also have a leg up to start the battle to be the starting quarterback in 2018.
He arrived in Columbus with an incredible pedigree. Burrow put up more than 11,000 yards passing, more than 2,000 yards rushing, and accounted for 184 touchdowns in three seasons as a starter for Athens High School.
He showed flashes of that promise during limited action as a redshirt freshman in the fall of 2016, going 22-for-28 for 226 yards and two touchdowns, and then racked up 262 yards and three touchdowns through the air during the Spring Game.
That all changed in an instant during the Buckeyes’ practice on August 21. Burrow broke a bone in his throwing hand and had to undergo surgery.
With OSU set to kick off their season at Indiana just 10 days later, the timing couldn’t have been much worse.
“The injury was pretty devastating to me this year,” said Burrow.
The redshirt sophomore did everything possible to get back on the field as soon as he could.
“I was throwing about six days after surgery – I started gripping and throwing the ball again,” said Burrow after the Cotton Bowl. “I was in there probably 8-10 hours per day getting treatment on my hand. It was a long journey to get back to 100 percent.”
While Burrow was scrambling to get back on the field, Dwayne Haskins grabbed the top backup job and held it throughout the season. That meant it was Haskins, and not Burrow, who got the call to step in and save the day in Ann Arbor when Barrett went down with a knee injury.
Burrow had to settle for mop-up duty in five blowout wins, going 7-for-11 passing for 61 yards all year.
“Leaning on people like J.T., some of my best friends,” said Burrow. “People I trusted and people close to me.”
With a frustrating 2017 behind him, Burrow knows he still has the chance to seize the starting job. With Barrett now gone, Burrow, Haskins, and redshirt freshman Tate Martell figure to have a fierce competition throughout the spring and perhaps even fall camp as well.
“Obviously I’m excited for it. But I’ve come into every spring thinking the same thing, that I was going to get better and improve and try my best and compete,” said Burrow.
Burrow is on track to graduate following the spring semester, which has led to speculation that he could be a graduate transfer candidate. Burrow said he’s just focused on winning the starting job.
“I’ve been thinking about that for 15 years, being the starting quarterback somewhere. The moment is here for someone to come and grab it. We’ll see what happens.”