Joe Burrow’s possible transfer was a topic of conversation almost every day since he first admitted to thinking about it following last December’s Big Ten Championship Game.
Burrow addressed the possibility again following the Cotton Bowl and more during spring football. As such, the coaches also had to address it. Normally, this stuff isn’t discussed with the media, but since Burrow had no problems talking, the coaches were then also subject to the questions.
Following spring ball, OSU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was asked if he had learned anything from his quarterback battles at Indiana that could help the situation at Ohio State.
“Well, you’re making everybody mad when you try to make everybody happy,” he said. “Everything I’m saying right now is going to be judged by them. And basically where you put your comma is going to be judged. Do you put an exclamation point? They’re judging everything, and to me, it was about who got the guy in the end zone. They were all great kids, all that kind of deal. It’s tough.”
The even tougher part then comes when a quarterback decides that he wants to transfer out in order to find a better chance to start.
Wilson has been there as well. Prior to the 2014 season at IU, quarterbacks Cameron Coffman and Tre Roberson transferred out, leaving the Hoosiers in a depth chart hole.
“I had a kid, one of them was leaving,” Wilson recalled. “I said, ‘You don’t want to leave.’ I said, ‘You’ve got a redshirt year, we could redshirt you. Stay. And maybe you’ll play.’”
The plea didn’t work and so Indiana was left with just junior Nate Sudfeld and freshman Zander Diamont heading into the 2014 season. Sudfeld and Roberson split time effectively in 2013, but Roberson was looking for something more substantial. So was Coffman, who transferred to Wyoming.
Sudfeld suffered an injury midway through the season and was lost for the year.
“Well then, we had an injury to a really good player that just won a Super Bowl that lost half a year,” Wilson said. “But [Coffman] did what he felt was best and I respected what he did. I really think sometimes though, just being a good teammate and working hard, there is still value in that.”
In preparation for the worst in 2014, Wilson moved freshman linebacker Chris Covington to quarterback in preseason camp. Covington saw time in five of Indiana’s first six games before he suffered an ACL tear. Wilson then had to burn Diamont’s freshman redshirt and start him for the final six games of the season.
Could Indiana have used Roberson or Coffman that season? Without question.
“When Coach Hayes and Coach Brown were coaching, with some of those values about ‘Come to work every day,” Wilson said. “And it’s hard because we are in an ‘I world.’ We are in a ‘right now world.’ We are in an ‘immediacy world.’”
Wilson doesn’t fault quarterbacks transferring. Everyone understands why they do it. From his perspective, however, he knows the negative impact that it can have on the team and on the player. The grass isn’t always greener, as they say.
“We’ll see how we come through this thing, but I don’t know,” he said prior to Burrow’s departure.
“I respect what Coach Meyer and Coach Day are doing. I respect what those kids have been doing. And I think it will be interesting as we move forward and hopefully at the end of the day you do what’s best for each kid. And ultimately we want to do what’s best for our program and our school as we move forward.”