Has Ohio State Changed Its Quarterback Recruiting Strategy?

Jack Miller Ohio State Recruiting Buckeyes

No position in sports gets more attention than the quarterback in football.

A great one can take an otherwise solid, but unspectacular team to a championship.

A bad one can single-handedly lose a game or even sink a season.

The starter becomes one of his team’s leaders almost by default. That can be true within a recruiting class as well. Often an early quarterback commitment will take a direct role recruiting other players in his class.

That leadership role is one reason the position is unique in recruiting. As a result, while most schools will take multiple players at every other position in a class, virtually all will only take one quarterback.

That has been the case for most of Urban Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State.

The Buckeyes signed Cardale Jones in 2012, J.T. Barrett in 2013, Stephen Collier in 2014, Joe Burrow and Torrance Gibson in 2015, Dwayne Haskins in 2016, Tate Martell in 2017, and Matthew Baldwin in 2018.

Gibson and Burrow in the 2015 class are the only exception, and Gibson moved to wide receiver within the first week or so of his freshman fall camp.

However, after Burrow transferred to LSU this spring, the Buckeyes were left with just three scholarship quarterbacks for the fall. If everyone stays, and the Buckeyes sign a quarterback this December, they’ll be back to four for 2019.

However, Haskins could theoretically leave early for the NFL Draft after this season, and injuries or transfers are always possible.

Meyer has acknowledged that playing with only three scholarship signal-callers is not ideal.

If any of those players leave, it could force Meyer to double up at quarterback in one of the coming years. It’s not his preference, but he has done it before.

“We took Cam Newton and John Brantley one time,” Meyer said, referencing a pair of 5-star QB prospects he signed at Florida in 2007.

“It’s not ideal, you don’t want to do that. If you have to, we’ll see what happens down the road but that’s not ideal.”

The Buckeyes already have 4-star prospect Dwan Mathis committed for 2019, and 4-star Jack Miller locked in for 2020. Barring a major change, don’t expect any new names to join that list until 2021.

The other question centers around the type of quarterbacks the Buckeyes are targeting.

Early in his tenure in Columbus, Meyer seemed to go after players considered dual-threat quarterbacks, ones adept at both throwing and running the ball.

Barrett, Collier, Burrow, and Martell all earned the dual-threat label. The only exceptions were Jones, who was a holdover from before Meyer’s hiring, and Haskins and Baldwin, who were both late flips to replace dual-threat quarterbacks who decommitted or wavered on their commitments.

It made sense to bring in dual-threat guys to run Meyer’s signature offense. A quarterback who presents a legitimate threat to run can make Meyer’s read-option attack much more dangerous.

That’s why it was something of a surprise to see the Buckeyes seemingly change course in recent years.

Baldwin was a pro-style passer in 2018. Mathis and Miller are both considered pro-style quarterbacks as well.

Does this mark a massive shift in Ohio State’s quarterback recruiting philosophy? Meyer said it’s much simpler than that.

“We take the best available player,” Meyer said. He pointed to the quarterbacks on a pair of his national championship-winning teams as an example.

“Two have been with drop-back, pro-style quarterbacks in Chris Leak and Cardale Jones. We’ve also had great success and an undefeated season with a pro-style quarterback in Alex Smith. Then you had Tebow, Braxton Miller, and I put J.T. in both,” he said.

“We fit whatever we have. We go after the best player that has the intangibles of competitiveness and toughness and leadership and we build it around what he can do.”

3 Responses

  1. interesting take on day. Most think he is best since sliced bread. Me … not sure. This year should answer that question

    1. If Meyer doesn’t get away from the QB power dive as his base play then he has seen his last National Title.

      Kevin Wilson should be let loose to implement and run his offense. Bringing him here to oversee a QB Power Dive based offense makes no sense.

  2. Neither Leak, Smith or Jones were recruited by Urban Meyer. Alex Smith was a freak athlete who also happened to have a freak arm and was as smart as they come on the football field. Chris Leak was much the same though not as quick with his decision making. Cardale Jones has a bazooka attached to his shoulder, just not as athletic as the other 2 and Urban rejected Cardale starting over JT Barrett, until he didn’t have a choice. Utah was a program on the uptick and poised for something special when Urban Meyer arrived. Florida was dripping with talent across the board, and at Ohio State Jim Tressel/Luke Fickell hardly left the cupboards bare. All 3 of those programs had the talent to win it all, and he helped develop it into title caliber teams. But he had to adapt to the leadership on the roster, and he did that. That’s smart coaching.

    Urban talks about adapting and he does it. I don’t think that means that he’s changed directions on the type of quarterback he targets to operate his philosophy though. In order for it to work without a JT Barrett, or Tim Tebow he’s got to have an OC capable of switching hats efficiently and quickly. Tom Herman is one of those guys capable of that. Maybe he thinks Kevin Wilson is the same. I personally don’t have much confidence in Ryan Day, but, and it’s a possibility, Ryan Days job was complicated because of having Zach Smith as the receivers coach. Brian Hartline is a major upgrade in coaching at that position. Now lets see if Ryan Day is worth a hill of beans teaching quarterbacks.

    Meyer hasn’t changed philosophy, the talent pool has cyclically changed to where guys who are high quality dual threat QB’s aren’t as plentiful for recruiters.

    Meyer got in early enough to watch Rick Trickett marry Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense, and throw in a little Denver Bronco’s receiver blocking techniques. Urban at Notre Dame started really working on developing, not a playbook but a philosophy based on a power option quarterback to gain a numerical advantage. For it to be successful the quarterback has to be a strong competitor to withstand the beating that’s certain to come with it. To this day I don’t think Urban would have ever targeted a guy like Pat White. Smooth, but hardly physical enough for Urbans power philosophy. He’d rather simply plug that quarterback in and develop the gameplans around his ideal quarterback, rather than dig to the back pages of his philosophy and create an offense around the foreign concept of true pro style. We saw what happened when Ton Herman left. That offense looked sophomoric at best under Ed Warinner. Is Kevin Wilson better? Don’t know because I haven’t had much interest in studying Indiana OR at Oklahoma, other than how he deployed his running backs. He had Sam Bradford to work with at OU so there wasn’t much he needed to do in developing the quarterback. Bradford was a great College quarterback.

    Time will tell how this new twist works out for the Buckeye offense under Kevin Wilson as opposed to Ed Warinner. It’s hard to envision a clown show equal to the train wreck that coast the Buckeyes back to back titles.

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