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LGHL Asks: What does Quinn Ewers reclassification mean for the present, future of Ohio State football?

Who will start in 2021? 2022? What does this do to recruiting? What will we learn about Day?

Ohio State Spring Game Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

Throughout the month of August, LGHL writers will be attempting to answer some of the most important questions about Ohio State’s 2021 football season. To catch up on all editions of LGHL Asks, click HERE.

Well, after setting Buckeye internet on fire last week with reports about a reclassification, today it became official that Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 player in the 2022 recruiting class, is now the No. 1 player in 2021 recruiting class, and is on his way to enroll at Ohio State.

As you have probably seen on the interwebz over the past few hours and days, there are a lot of different opinions about how this impacts the OSU football team. The thing is, no one really knows for sure; not fans, not beat writers, certainly not bloggers, but not even Ryan Day at this point.

So, I am not going to tell you that I know exactly how all of this is going to play out, but I will try to logically and dispassionately play the newly messy scenario out over the next couple thousand words or so.

Who plays quarterback for 2021 team?

First and foremost it’s important to remember that Ewers is not yet on campus, and according to various reports, will not be enrolled when the team moves into their camp lodging (cue the always uncomfortable fashion show) on Tuesday, and will likely not be there for their first practice early on Wednesday morning.

With wrapping up his final high school credit, there are still some additional hoops to be jumped through in order for South Lake Carroll to officially bestow a diploma on the bemulleted phenom. So, while he will undoubtedly make it to camp in the fairly near future, it does look like he will be missing out on valuable time with his teammates and coaches preparing for the season.

Of course, Ewers has likely had OSU’s playbook for weeks — or more likely months — but that’s not the same as having the coaches in your ear during practice, watching film with the other QBs, and building a report with the wide receivers.

So, if you couple that with the fact that all of his quarterback competitors have been in the system for eight to 20 months more than he has, it is tough to imagine that he will be the Buckeyes’ opening game starter against Minnesota in one month’s time. In my opinion, this will also hamper his chances to be the backup, as once the starter is determined, opportunities to ball out and prove yourself to the coaches will be limited.

That being typed, I do think that what is best for the future of the program is to get Ewers in as many games as possible this fall. Whether that’s as the first, second (my preference), or third-string QB is something that I will trust to Ryan Day, but Ewers needs to play — and throw — a lot more this season than C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller III did in 2020.

As I said following the spring game, I expect Stroud to be the starter when the season opens; and while I’ve said that I think McCord is the best athlete of the pre-Ewers bunch, I think that simply due to timing and unusual circumstances, he might never truly get a chance to be the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, but more on that in a minute.

Which quarterbacks are going to transfer?

This is another one of those impossible questions to answer, because making this kind of decision hinges so much on a player’s personal outlook and priorities, but if we look at this logically, we know the answer is not going to be “none of them.”

So, who would be the first to go (and when)? Certainly there have been guys who have transferred just before and during fall camp, but for guys this talented, I’m not sure if that makes sense in this circumstance. Most teams have their QB depth chart either fully figured out or they at least know all of the participants, so finding the perfect landing spot might not be possible late in the game, especially with the elite talent that potentially on its way out of OSU’s QB room.

Therefore, if you’re going to leave now, and you want to go to a program befitting your top-end skillset, chances are that you’re going to be sitting somewhere. So, unless you have hard feelings about how things played out in Columbus, why go somewhere to sit if you can stay where you are and still sit, but get the best strength and conditioning training in college sports and work with one of the best — if not The best — quarterback developer in the game?

So, while, again, I welcome all athletes to do what they believe is best for them, I think that the group of quarterbacks that the Buckeyes have now (once Ewers’ reclassification becomes official) is the group that they’ll go into the season with.

What about after the season? Well, obviously Ewers isn’t going anywhere, and if Stroud becomes the starter in 2021 as predicted above, the only way that I see him transferring before the 2022 season is if he is unequivocally beaten out for the job following next year’s spring practice — presumably at that point by Ewers. Otherwise, I imagine that Day will do everything that he can to continue the quarterback competition into 2022’s fall camp, with an eye on keeping as many of his talented QBs on the roster for that coming season.

So, if that happens, that leaves Jack Miller and Kyle McCord. Miller is clearly QB4 coming into the 2021 season, and with all due respect, I just don’t see that changing in the next 12 months. However, Miller has familial ties to Ohio State, so he might be comfortable sticking around for at least another year to work with Day, Mickey Marotti, Corey Dennis, et al. before deciding what he wants to do thereafter. If that’s his decision, good for him, and he will be a more than capable backup.

However, I don’t see that happening. While he is the lowest rated of OSU’s four QBs, he was still a fairly well-regarded prospect, especially before a series of injuries had him take a tumble down the ratings; and I am sure that Miller wants to play, and preferably sooner rather than later. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that he didn’t enter the portal over the summer, but I would be shocked if he doesn’t in January.

Now, McCord is tricky, because he is certainly capable of competing for (and winning) the starting job against both Stroud and Ewers. There are some LGHL staffers who believe that he is the best of the three (stay tuned for that article on Tuesday), but as I said above, I believe that he is a victim of bad timing that is all but out of his control.

Stroud has an entire year of learning and development over him, and Ewers has so much talent and hype, that after a year of going through the Buckeye gauntlet, he very well could be unstoppable.

So, I imagine that McCord will be looking for a new place to play in 2022 (if not before), and if that does in fact come to pass, I wish him as much success as another famous OSU transfer, Joe Burrow — as long as it doesn’t stop Ohio State from winning a national title or a Buckeye QB from winning the Heisman, of course!

How does this impact OSU’s quarterback recruiting?

Well, following the decommitment of five-star cornerback Jaheim Singletary on Sunday, Ohio State has lost its top two rated players in their 2022 class in the matter of 24 hours; now, of course, they are still keeping Ewers, just in a new class, but that will certainly hamper the cycle’s status and focuses.

However, I do not think that Day and company will go out and look to replace Ewers with another QB in the 2022 class now that platinum blonde wonder has been bumped up to ‘21. I’d imagine that it will be difficult to find an incoming freshman worthy of a spot on the roster who is willing to dive into the mess outlined above.

But, I do think that OSU could add another signal-caller to the squad before next season should two of the four (or even three of the four) QBs decide to find greener pastures elsewhere. If they do, in my mind, it would almost certainly be via the portal. Day will likely want to find a quarterback who has been through the developmental process a few times before. They obviously probably won’t get someone with tons of starting experience, but ideally the transfer QB would have some substantial playing time and would be comfortable backing up and mentoring Ewers and/or Stroud.

From there though, things will likely get a bit wild. While Day and company were probably planning to try and find a low four-star/high three-star player in 2023 to serve as a bridge and then look for another headliner in 2024 when Ewers was still the stud of the ‘22 class, that has now completely changed.

They will have some catching up to do, since this wasn’t necessarily their plan, but guys like Arch Manning (No. 2 nationally) Dante Moore (No. 14), Dylan Lonergan (No. 39), Nicholaus Iamaleava (No. 41), and others would be obvious targets in the ‘23 class. Are they too far behind to land any of these guys? Perhaps, but with the sudden change in situation, how could Ohio State not be attractive to some of the country’s top quarterbacks?

Until a week or so ago, it looked like the next big QBs on OSU’s board were 2024’s Jadyn Davis, Adrian Posse, and Komari Lewis. Of course, depending on how things shake out with the position in Columbus (and in the ‘23 class), any of them could still be in the plans moving forward, but it is much less likely given today’s developments.

So, if I were a betting man, I would say that following the 2021 season, the Buckeyes land a veteran via the transfer portal, then focus on finding a top-line QB in the 2023 class to round out the room.

Who plays quarterback for 2022 team?

As I have mentioned before, I have long been on the C.J. Stroud train, but friends, I just don’t see a situation in which the literal highest rated player in Ohio State recruiting history (dating back to the advent of recruiting rankings in 2000) sits for two years until 2023 and Day, Dennis, and Kevin Warren only get one year out of him before he undoubtedly bolts for the NFL.

I still think that there’s a slight chance that Ewers ends up as the starter by the end of the 2021 season, but I just can’t imagine him not taking the field as QB1 when the Buckeyes open the 2022 campaign against Notre Dame on Saturday, Sept. 3.

After a year of physical maturation and positional development, he’s just too talented to keep off of the field. As good as Stroud or Miller or McCord might be, in my opinion, it would be bordering on a gross dereliction of duty if Day did not get Ewers on the field by Year 2.

What do we learn about Ryan Day from this situation?

While none of us really know Day’s true, unguarded opinions on this situation, I can guaran-damn-tee that this was not the plan six months ago, heck, maybe not even six weeks ago. But no matter whether OSU’s head coach is secretly pissed about this development, or quietly masterminded it all behind the scenes, this is going to get messy, maybe even a little emotional for some, and it will test the young coach’s mettle.

For me, the tenure of Urban Meyer at Ohio State can be separated into two time periods with the 2015 season as the line of demarcation. Following the national championship season the year before, the Hall of Fame coach found himself in an unusual predicament with two quarterbacks who were undeniably instrumental in securing the first College Football Playoff title.

But, from start to eventual finish, Meyer mishandled the competition between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, and after that bungled battle, it felt like the coach was incapable of making any difficult decisions, often resorting to seniority, familiarity, and comfortability above all else.

Fortunately in the team’s current circumstance, no one really has seniority amongst the QBs in question, so Day will need to make a decision based on something else, preferably on who helps the team most. Now, that might not be totally a decision based solely on 2021, as whomever ends up being named the starter this season will have ripples large and small for the next two or ten seasons.

While only his third season as a head coach, the next month feels like it will be a kairotic moment in Day’s career. This is a decision that will define his program for years to come; but what’s interesting (and exciting) is that he doesn’t have any truly bad options here. There might be a best answer, and I trust that Day will figure out what it is, but no matter which route the coach goes, I feel comfortable with either Stroud, McCord, or Ewers at the helm.

So, buckle up for an exciting camp and season, and always remember that it’s a great day to be a Buckeye!