As is the case at an increasing number of football programs across the country, the growing quarterback transfer movement has cut both ways for Ohio State.
A year ago, the Buckeyes had Dwayne Haskins, Matthew Baldwin, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell on the roster.
With Baldwin’s transfer pending, all four likely are soon to be gone, but the cupboard is not empty thanks to the arrival of Justin Fields from Georgia and Chris Chugunov from West Virginia since late summer.
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The makeover of the QB room began last spring after Haskins and Burrow battled for the starting job and then-coach Urban Meyer declined to name a frontrunner to replace the graduated J.T. Barrett.
Shortly thereafter, Burrow took the opportunity to leave and play elsewhere immediately as a graduate transfer, ultimately landing at LSU, where he started for the Tigers last fall.
Haskins took the reins at Ohio State in the fall and was so good — setting numerous Big Ten and school passing records en route to finishing third in Heisman Trophy balloting — he opted to enter the NFL draft, something that was understandable in January but not expected prior to the season.
After reports Fields was interested in joining the Ohio State program surfaced in December, Martell initially declared he would be in Columbus and the Buckeyes’ starter in 2019 no matter what. Martell entered the transfer portal not long after Fields, a 2018 five-star prospect, arrived in January and had transferred to Miami (Fla.) by the end of the month.
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Baldwin’s departure would leave only sophomore-to-be Fields and senior Chugunov as scholarship quarterbacks on the Ohio State roster, which also includes Danny Vanatsky, a sophomore walk-on from Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.
First-year Ohio State coach Ryan Day, who replaced the retiring Meyer as head coach on Jan. 2, acknowledged in February managing the quarterback depth chart is a challenge in this day and age of increased player movement.
"First off, it's hard to recruit a highly recruited guy then recruit guys behind them,” he said. “If they leave, after their third year in the program, it gets really hard. That's the constant struggle of right now with college football and the quarterback situation. It's very sensitive, but to your point, that is a challenge.”
He has four-star prospect Jack Miller of Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., committed for the 2020 class but now faces the need to potentially add another signal-caller for depth purposes, something that may or may not thrill Miller.
“I think honesty is the best way to go,” Day said in February of trying to bring in and keep satisfied multiple highly-regarded quarterbacks. “I think it has changed in the last year. It's changed in the last two to three years, it has changed the last five years to the last decade. It's changing.
“I think five years ago when you could have guys stay in your program at quarterback, I think that's changed. Guys want to play right now. The best way to combat that is to be honest in the recruiting process. To tell someone they're going to come in and play right away is not right. I think you have to be honest with them, tell them it's a competition. There's no expectation problems when they get here.”
Although Day’s predecessors might not have had this many come and go in such a short period of time, losing quarterbacks is nothing new for an Ohio State coach.
Since Centerville star Kirk Herbstreit became John Cooper’s first Ohio State recruit in 1988, 35 quarterbacks have signed with the Scarlet and Gray and more than one third of them (13) have transferred out.
Eleven became full-year starters, and only five stayed through the end of their eligibility if they were not the starter heading into their senior year.
The latter has become increasingly rare as Kenny Guiton and Justin Zwick are the only ones of the group to sign since 2000.
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