With J.T. Barrett manning the helm for four of the past five seasons under center for the Buckeyes, and his replacement rewriting the Big Ten record books,“stable” is a word one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to use when describing the quarterback position at Ohio State.
Since this past season ended, however, the whirlwind state of flux that the Ohio State quarterback room has endured can be summed up with a two word catalyst:
Without a game under his belt as Ohio State’s new head football coach, Ryan Day has already faced the highs and lows of college football’s quarterback transfer portal, with six new quarterbacks arriving to the program within the calendar year.
But the recent unpredictability of quarterback transfers is not something he favors.
“All the transferring that’s going on, that’s not great for college football in a lot of areas,” Day said Wednesday in a press conference.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields, the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2018 class, fell into Day’s lap when he transferred to Ohio State from Georgia in January, which seemed the perfect time to take over for NFL-bound Dwayne Haskins.
What appeared to be a win for the Buckeye program quickly became bittersweet with the announcement days later that Tate Martell, a four-star recruit in his own right, would be entering the transfer portal.
Martell’s departure to Miami opened the door for redshirt freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin to challenge Fields for the starting spot.
Given a spotty 4-for-13 performance from Fields in April’s Spring Game, Day remained resolute that the battle had yet to be decided.
However, Baldwin turned up in the transfer portal less than a week later.
Despite Fields’ electrifying athletic ability, Day said he won’t know exactly what he has until Field gets game reps.
“This is somebody who has so much talent,” Day said. “Physically, god gave him a ton of gifts. But learning to play the position is something you learn through experience and he just doesn’t have that experience.”
Experience is something that the rest of the Ohio State quarterback room lacks as well.
Redshirt senior quarterback Chris Chugunov has attempted just 45 passes in his collegiate career, and none for Ohio State. Sophomore Danny Vanatsky is a preferred walk-on with no game experience, and freshman JP Andrade will enter his first year as a three-star recruit ranked the No. 185 prospect in the state of California.
Day and the Buckeyes found their third scholarship quarterback at the end of April, once again courtesy of the transfer portal.
Sophomore quarterback and Dublin, Ohio native Gunner Hoak signed with Ohio State after one season with Kentucky, where he threw 167 yards and two touchdowns on 12-for-26 attempts.
“He’s gonna come in and he’s gonna get reps with the [starters] and he’s gonna compete for the starting job,” Day said. “Justin got here in February and he did not win the job.”
Day said Hoak’s central-Ohio background was the first factor in bringing him into the program, and stressed the importance of having players that know the traditions of Ohio State football, including the Michigan rivalry.
Ohio State’s first-year quarterback coach Mike Yurcich, who served as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator 2013-2018, said he does not want to revamp the entire quarterback room each year, but that the state of flux does not ultimately change his role as a coach.
With Hoak’s transfer taking place at the end of April, Yurcich said he has not been able to work with him as of yet.
“Not being able to work with him on the field throwing the ball at least, it’s really hard for me to go and elaborate on an individual that hasn’t had one practice yet,” Yurcich said.
Despite Fields’ primary competition for the starting quarterback job being several months behind in terms of development in the program, Yurcich said Fields is still trying to set himself apart.
Day said the summer allows his players to build camaraderie, but added that he looks forward to the quarterback battle that will take place in the preseason.
“Let the competition begin in August,” Day said.