Ohio State redshirt junior quarterback Joe Burrow has heard it all.
He’s nothing but a career backup. He’s going to transfer when he doesn’t win the starting quarterback position. He wasn’t a highly ranked recruit. He should have signed elsewhere if he wanted to play at the Division I level. He lacks both Dwayne Haskins’ spectacular arm strength and Tate Martell’s head-turning elusiveness.
“For about a year, I get all these tweets. ‘Where are you going? You’re going to transfer and never play.’ I see them,” Burrow said on March 22. “I don’t say anything, but I see them.”
But what at once seemed like a foregone conclusion to many seems less likely now. Not only is he still at Ohio State, but he’s in competition for — and should win — the starting quarterback position.
While Haskins’ arm and Martell’s legs seem appealing, no one has the combination of the two that Burrow possesses. Though his arm won’t wow onlookers the same way Haskins’ does, he can make any throw to all parts of the field. And despite lacking Martell’s electric speed and shiftiness, Burrow has enough speed to pose a threat to defenses on power read-options.
The combination of all skills lends itself to a comparison between Burrow and J.T. Barrett, the quarterback whom he would replace. The similarities don’t end with their physical traits.
“I think the big thing for all of us is leadership,” Burrow said. “I think the best leader is going to win the job because obviously J.T. was the leader of the team last year and someone is going to have to step up.”
When head coach Urban Meyer grades the talent of quarterbacks, he said he puts additional focus to the non-throwing aspects of the position, such as competitiveness, toughness, leadership, football IQ and the ability to extend the play. That should help Burrow’s case to start in the eyes of Meyer.
In his three seasons as a Buckeye, Burrow has not attempted more than nine passes in any game. But in his short time, he impressed and entered last fall tied with Haskins as Barrett’s backup until a broken hand ended his pursuit of the backup role.
“Joe, before his injury, was neck and neck,” Meyer said on March 6. “We’re trying to do the best we can to make sure that they have equal opportunity to compete.”
Now healthy, Burrow is out to prove everyone wrong. He came back this spring with one goal in mind: to become the next Ohio State starting quarterback.
“I was convinced that it was going to be an open competition and that’s why I wanted to stay and give it my best shot,” Burrow said. “They said that they’ll make a decision soon and we’ll see.”