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 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.”