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Ohio State’s QB room could stay stacked with Joe Burrow ‘leaning toward staying’

Plus, Urban Meyer and Kerry Coombs react to Denzel Ward’s decision to sit and declare early.

Ohio State v Rutgers Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

“I came to terms with it the last couple weeks. Either way, no matter what I do, I’m going to have to come out and compete somewhere. I felt like I got a lot better in the last couple weeks of bowl practice and that was good.”

-Joe Burrow, via William Kosileski of Land of 10

The quarterback room at Ohio State has always been filled with more talent than roster spots, and more potential No. 1 than starting opportunities. The latest round of QB controversy focuses on the future of the Buckeye offense now that the J.T. Barrett era is officially behind us.

Heading into the 2017 season, the battle for the No. 2 QB spot was neck-and-neck between Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins, but with a hand injury and related surgery for Burrow, Haskins took the garbage time snaps and became the clear backup for Barrett throughout the season. As Ohio State also boasts Tate Martell, who just finished his redshirt season, and added yet another potential-filled QB with the 2018 recruiting class.

As the quarterback room gets more crowded, Joe Burrow has a decision to make — and soon — about where he plans to play ball in 2018. Transfer rumors started mid-season, but have certainly seen an upswing in recent weeks. As noted in the Land of 10 article above, Burrow was blunt, “I don’t know. I’m leaning towards staying.”

He won’t have too long to hedge on his decision, and will have to let Buckeye coaches know soon.

“But this game proved one thing to me: the committee got it right. Neither No. 5 Ohio State nor No. 8 USC deserved to be included in the playoff.”

-Edward Sutelan, The Lantern

With the way Ohio State played last night, especially the defense, questions quickly arose following the Cotton Bowl win about the team’s potential in the College Football Playoff. And while parts of the team could certainly compete against some of the top-4 teams playing on New Years Day, the offense still struggled enough to pump the brakes on the “Buckeyes were robbed” takes.

Both the Big Ten champions and Pac-12 champions being left out of the CFP was a hotly debated topic for weeks, but those talks should have been put to bed with the way the game played out. Certainly competing as top-10 teams, neither sides offense was enough to say they’d have succeeded against a defense like Alabama. That’s just silly.

It was still a good step for the Buckeyes, who were still fighting off flashbacks of a scoreless bowl game last season against Clemson. Beating a familiar foe in the postseason will give Urban Meyer and team some motivation and momentum heading into 2018, and will hopefully give next year’s squad a better chance of making a run in the CFP. It’s hard to imagine they would have finished on the same positive note had they snagged that final spot in the top-4 this season.

“We’ve had ongoing conversations. He practiced every day. We prepared for him not to play. I mean that would be foolish not to. So we practiced a lot of guys in those roles, which is why I think they played so well.”

-Kerry Coombs, via Tony Gerdeman of TheOzone

Denzel Ward’s seemingly last minute decision to skip the Cotton Bowl and forego his final year of eligibility for the NFL draft was a bit of a shocker. Except to those around him for the past few weeks.

Following the win over USC, both Urban Meyer and Kerry Coombs spoke about Ward’s decision to sit out of the bowl game, and how they went about preparing for his potential absence. Ward’s decision to still participate in bowl game practices and his honesty about being on the fence, allowed some of the younger guys to prepare for a role they don’t normally take -- and the results were successful on Friday.

Meyer spoke about how the discussions among Ward and his family were ongoing following the Big Ten Championship game, and that the talks weren’t taken lightly. The group discussed options for Ward to only play on third-downs or on special teams, but ultimately he decided to sit out altogether. The coaches may not have been made aware of Ward’s final decision until the day before the game, but they had been preparing for that outcome for weeks.

“Ward staying with the Buckeyes to be a part of the team and continuing to mentor his younger fellow DBs helps them out, and they get to shine on the bowl stage while he looks on as a supportive teammate.”

-Richard Johnson, SB Nation

Will Denzel Ward skipping the bowl game look bad to NFL scouts? Probably not.

It’s become somewhat of the norm over the past few years, with two of the top running backs (Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette) setting a real precedent and skipping their bowl games. Still, it’s not something Ohio State players and fans really expected from one of their own. Sam Hubbard was emphatic following the Big Ten Championship that he wouldn’t even consider skipping a bowl game, that he’s playing with and for his brothers.

Now we know, even Buckeye players could make the decision to sit out of a big-time bowl game to protect their bodies and draft stock. It’s a selfish decision, but not in a bad way. The game of football is a tough one and any given play could lead to a career-ending injury, sometimes when you weigh the risks, they just aren’t worth it.

Ward is still expected to be a first or second-round pick, and will now get ready to show off during the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine -- to which, I’m sure he’ll get and accept an invite.

“College football fans are never quite going to agree on J.T. Barrett. He might simultaneously be the most underrated and overrated quarterback in Ohio State history.”

-Bill Connelly, SB Nation

Anyone who has followed Ohio State football since 2014 has noticed the ebb and flow with quarterback J.T. Barrett’s performances. He was never able to recapture the consistent precision and explosion from his first year as the starting QB for the Buckeyes — filling in for Braxton Miller just weeks before the start of the year.

The QB competition with Cardale Jones in 2015 seemed to crush his spirit, and set him up for a lot more inconsistencies throughout the duration of his Ohio State career. With top receivers turning the NFL, Barrett was the leader among a very young #Zone6 for much of 2016. He took the Buckeyes on yet another CFP run this season, that somehow saw losses to both Oklahoma and Iowa before finishing the season in the Cotton Bowl.

With a taste of how good he was early on in his career, the ups and downs weren’t taken very lightly among fans, who were (as always) highly critical of the lackluster passing game and Barrett run-heavy offensive game plan. But having claimed 22-plus school records, and a host of Big Ten conference records -- including most total offense, usurping Drew Brees during the Cotton Bowl.— it’s hard to imagine all of those frustrating things he did in-game wont eventually be forgotten, and legends of his stat lines will live on.