One of the most respected reporters and analysts in the game, Fox’s Bruce Feldman, has been ranking different position groups across the country this offseason. Earlier today, he got to the quarterbacks, singling out not just the programs with the best QBs for the 2016 season, but the best QB position groups, which would include backups.
It isn’t a surprise that Feldman thinks highly of Ohio State’s outfit, naming it the seventh best in the country.
A major part of that is because of the man leading the show, J.T. Barrett. Barrett’s 2015 statline was relatively modest, thanks to splitting time with Cardale Jones, and with the coaching learning curve in the wake of Tom Herman’s departure (992 yards passing with a 63.3% completion rate, 11 TDs and 4 INTs). But the last time he had the bulk of the season to himself, all Barrett did was finish fifth in Heisman voting, throwing 34 TD passes.
Barrett will be throwing to some relatively inexperienced wideouts and handing off to a relatively inexperienced running back, but given his strengths, how he fits with Urban Meyer’s scheme, and the continuity in the coaching staff, there’s a lot of optimism about how he’ll perform this season, and with good reason. Barrett will enter the season as the best quarterback in the Big Ten, and is a perfectly legitimate Heisman candidate, and one of the better quarterbacks in the country.
But it isn’t just Barrett that sets Ohio State up as one of the best QB rooms in the country. And if current trends hold, the Buckeyes should be on similar lists for the next several years.
It all comes down to recruiting, and few have recruited the quarterback position as well as Ohio State over the last few years. After Barrett, the Buckeyes boast two blue-chip options in redshirt freshman Joe Burrow, and true freshman Dwayne Haskins. Per Feldman, Meyer gushed about Haskins last winter, calling him “the best QB recruit I’ve ever seen”. He’s certainly one of the highest rated recruits the Buckeyes have picked up at QB, with a 247Sports Composite ranking over over .9500.
Not very many programs can point to QB recruiting like that. Penn State only has one blue-chip player currently in their QB room. Same with Nebraska. Wisconsin doesn’t have any. A few other programs in the Big Ten can claim two, but even fewer can claim a pedigree comparable to Haskins. In the conference, perhaps only Michigan can, and they are preparing to pick between two three-star recruits for their QB job this year.
Ohio State’s QB room is about to become even more stacked. The Buckeyes currently have two QBs committed in the class of 2017, including four-star Tate Martell, a high four-star prospect rated as the second best dual-threat QB in the country right now, along with Danny Clark, a high three-star commit. The Buckeyes also have Emory Jones committed for 2018, who just earned five-star status from Rivals, and projects to be in the four/five-star conversation across other services.
It’s tough to keep that many quarterbacks committed over multiple years. After all, you can generally only play one, and kids with elite offer sheets and recruiting profiles don’t typically want to wait three or four years. And while recruiting rankings are generally predictive of success, they’re a long way from foolproof, especially for quarterbacks. Not every high level recruit will be successful in college, and multiple mid-level three star types will have very solid college careers.
But even if Ohio State can’t quite keep everybody in the fold for the entirety of their college careers, having that many options speaks well for Ohio State’s chances of consistently fielding high level quarterback play, a key for competing for Big Ten championships and playoff births. The more elite recruits you have, the better chances you have of fielding elite players, and the Buckeyes will have a loaded room of potential elite QBs not just this season, but potentially for the next several seasons.
Given Urban Meyer’s track record with college quarterbacks, and the level of offensive line and skill talent that’s being assembled in Columbus, that could be bad news for the Big Ten for years to come.