The solution to the quarterback conundrum for the Ohio State Buckeyes seemed to arrive on Tuesday afternoon. Now, it appears that Dwayne Haskins will be the guy to lead OSU heading into the 2018-19 pursuit for a national championship—with Tate Martell in the backup role.
With Joe Burrow out of the Buckeyes QB race and transferring out of Columbus, he has quite a few options at where his landing spot will be. Some of those options include foes the Buckeyes face; others include power programs in the south, as well as a couple other places across the country that has an offensive style that gels with his skillset.
Let’s take a look at where (and why) Burrow could wind up at.
Is there a chance Burrow will play against Ohio State?
Of the schools that were on the Burrow watchlist, there are a couple programs that are on the Buckeyes’ schedule over the next two seasons. One of those schools is a Big Ten foe, while the other is an in-state rival slated for 2019.
The Cornhuskers are coming off a 4-8 season, and also lost their starting QB Tanner Lee to the NFL Draft. Mix those two components with a new head coach in Scott Frost, and now you have a program with a clean slate, looking to get back on top of the college football world.
Prior to taking over the head coaching position for the Huskers, Frost led UCF to an undefeated (and self-proclaimed national championship) season in 2017-18. In his college days, Frost was the QB for Nebraska and was part of two national championships under legendary coach Tom Osborne. Like Frost, Burrow also has a connection to the NU program; he has numerous family members that were part of the football program in Lincoln at some point in time.
Why Nebraska is a good fit
There is no dead-set starting QB for Nebraska. Tanner Lee got drafted, which left a revolving door for who the starter would be in September 2018. Patrick O’Brien seemed like he would be in the mix for the starting job, but he ended up transferring out. Noah Vedral transferred to the Cornhuskers via UCF—following Frost, however, unlike Burrow, Vendral isn’t a graduate transfer and will have to sit out a year if he doesn’t get an NCAA waiver.
Another reason why Nebraska is a good landing spot for Burrow is that he has experience scouting against Big Ten teams. This coaching staff is practically full of guys who followed Frost from UCF, so any help in scouting what the rest of the Big Ten is doing would go a long way in getting Nebraska back on track as fast as possible.
Burrow could also benefit from spending some time working with QB coach Mario Verduzco, one of those UCF transplants, who last season molded McKenzie Milton into the nation’s second best passer in the efficiency category.
Why there may be a hurdle with Nebraska
Verduzco was a catalyst in recruiting four-star dual-threat QB Adrian Martinez to Lincoln. So while there is no set starter, there’s still some competition in the QB room.
Outside of the potential for a freshman QB to overtake Burrow, there’s also other factors that throw a wrench into a move to Nebraska. OSU can block the transfer outright, and then there’s the Big Ten intraconference transfer rule that may take a year of eligibility from Burrow.
Rule 15.01.5. Intraconference Transfer Rules. B. Post Matriculation. A student-athlete that has signed a tender from a Conference institution and has triggered transfer status per NCAA Bylaw 14.5.2 (conditions affecting transfer status), may not represent an alternate Big Ten institution in intercollegiate athletics competition until the individual has completed one (1) full academic year of residence at the alternate (i.e., certifying) Big Ten institution and shall be charged with the loss of one (1) season of eligibility in all sports.
Oh, and according to Sean Callahan of HuskerOnline.com, it seems that there isn’t dialogue right now between Frost and Burrow. Judging by that, Frost may be rolling the dice on the underclassmen—leaving Burrow out of the Big Red conversation for now.
Like Nebraska, the 4-8 bug hit Cincinnati last season. Also like the Cornhuskers: The Bearcats have Ohio State on their schedule in the future. In 2019, UC will make the trek North to the Horseshoe.
Right now, though, Hayden Moore is tabbed as the starting signal-caller for the upcoming 2018 season. His passing efficiency and yards per game averaged dipped last season, and an in-state move for Burrow could shake up the QB position.
Especially with Luke Fickell running the show in Cincinnati, the Buckeye connection is there. Fickell needs to turn his program around in Year 2, and a veteran QB may do the trick.
Why UC is a good fit
He has a good chance to earn the starting job on a team in a decent conference. The backup for the Bearcats (Ross Trail) made his intent to transfer out of the program known back in April. If Burrow goes to the Queen City, then it’ll be a battle with Moore for the starting job. Win that battle, and there’s a favorable slate of games in a turnaround season for the Bearcats.
As an added bonus, a big non-conference home-and-home with UCLA, and OSU in ‘19, may grab the attention of scouts if he performs well.
In the early stages of the Burrow watch, Cincinnati was one of the schools to have permission for contact. So, there’s at least some interest there.
What about a move to the SEC?
Florida and LSU are seen as the two contenders from the SEC that could be warm landing spots for Burrow.
Dan Mullen, an Urban Meyer disciple, is the new head coach in Gainesville, and he has a track record of molding college QBs with Alex Smith (Utah) and Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) being the best examples.
The QB room at Florida has a returning starter in Feleipe Franks, but Kyle Trask and Emory Jones — the former Ohio State commit — are making it a competition for the job. While it will probably be Franks vs. Trask to lead the Gators, the addition of Burrow would make things even more competitive.
Over at LSU, the situation is a tad different. Danny Etling, the starter last year, got drafted—leaving a sizable hole at QB. There’s a three-man battle in Baton Rouge with no clear-cut favorite. Ed Orgeron could get some order restored at the position with Burrow coming in an becoming the clear No. 1 guy.
Both options have their advantages. At Florida, a proven QB guru in Mullen could help Burrow on his quest to the NFL; at LSU, the school is renowned for its ability to produce wide receivers. Go there, and he’ll probably have some NFL-grade talent catching the footballs.
With LSU, he’ll be guaranteed to go up against Nick Saban’s Alabama juggernaut. With both schools, he’ll have to face the various offshoots of 3-4/Cover 1 defense that the Saban disciples (Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee and Kirby Smart at Georgia) have taken across the conference. In The Essential Smart Football, Chris B. Brown described Saban’s defensive goals, which includes making sure the ball isn’t thrown “deep down the middle or inside”.
Success in the SEC will be dependent upon one’s ability to make the big pressure throws on third down, and staving off the blitz that will inevitably come. Do that, and Burrow may have a shot at not only a conference championship, but some individual honors and potential to bust into the College Football Playoff.
What will Burrow do?
If Joe Burrow woke up and decided to have me, an arm-chair adviser, lead his decision making for where to continue his education and playing days, then I have a question that needs to be answered: What’s his endgame?
If being a star college football QB is the goal, then heading to LSU, Florida or any big-name program is the answer. A place like LSU that can supply a quality WR corps and running game will make life easier in the pocket. Realistically, about 15 teams have a real shot at being in the national title conversation on any given year, so going to one of those places is the conventional answer if you want a college career to be remembered.
However, if the endgame is to get to the NFL as a QB, then the answer is a little different. Going to a powerhouse program in the title hunt may do more harm than good. Being surrounded by an offensive line full of four- and five-star recruits may bode well for a college tenure, but in the pros, everybody is the best of the best. Learning to survive in the pocket at the college level helps get you NFL ready by the time draft day rolls around.
Roughly 25 percent of QBs entering the 2017 training camp came from one of eight schools. USC (5), Michigan State (4) and Wisconsin (4) were the three schools that led the way in getting signal callers onto NFL rosters. While none of those schools right now appear to be in on the Burrow sweepstakes, Mullen has put two QBs into the NFL—and both saw time as starters.
Currently, Burrow’s father is a coordinator at Ohio University, so I wouldn’t discount that as a landing spot at all, either. If the option presented itself, suiting up for the Gators, Bobcats or Bearcats would be the most beneficial if Burrow wanted to be prepared to make the leap from college to pro football.