COLUMBUS — After decades of not producing a high NFL Draft pick at quarterback, things are changing at Ohio State.
Dwayne Haskins became a first-round pick after two years of development under Ryan Day. Justin Fields is a Heisman finalist, a Heisman favorite and a likely first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
According to Quincy Avery, who serves as the personal quarterback coach for both Haskins and Fields, it’s the impact of Ryan Day being seen in real-time.
“Guys know that when they go to Ohio State, they are going to play for one of the best quarterback developers in the country,” Avery told Lettermen Row when C.J. Stroud, also a pupil of his, signed with the Buckeyes in December. “I mean, there is a small group, a small list of people you really want to see your kid go learn the game from a development standpoint. It’s really pivotal in a lot of quarterback decisions.”
Since the arrival of Urban Meyer and his Director of Player Personnel Mark Pantoni, Ohio State has won the Big Ten’s Silver Football award six times, and four of those winners played quarterback in Columbus. It’s clear the Buckeyes know what they want from the position and are recruiting to that end.
What does it take to get recruited by Ohio State to play quarterback? As Day himself has described in the past, the first thing — and most important thing — is one exceptional trait.
That trait, in most cases, isn’t about throwing the football further than anyone else or the size of someone’s hands, a metric that Joe Burrow was knocked for prior to the most recent NFL Draft.
“I think the number one thing you look for is some sort of extraordinary trait,” Day said previously. “From there, though, there’s a whole other list of things that we go through…but the number one thing we want is some sort of exceptional trait.”
That trait varies. For J.T. Barrett and Tate Martell, it was a combination of fiery competitor and leadership. Joe Burrow held those same qualities and was deadly accurate in the intermediate passing game. Dwayne Haskins? That was arm strength and accuracy with the flick of a wrist. Justin Fields? He could be the combination of all those things. Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud combine size, touch in the passing game and the ability to throw on the run.
It’s not one thing that matters the most, but it’s the need to have one characteristic that stands out the most. For 2021 commitment Kyle McCord, it’s the ability to put the football in the right spot and in rhythm combined with prototypical size at the quarterback position. The Buckeyes want players taller than 6-foot-2 but would prefer not to have guys taller than 6-foot-5 at that spot.
To be considered as a recruit at quarterback for Ohio State, there are metrics being measured. Nothing matters more than competitive fire and the ability to lead when times are tough. That’s what kept Barrett — who happened to also break 39 different Ohio State and Big Ten records for the Buckeyes — on the field when others may have had more natural quarterback talent. Only after those vital non-tangible aspects are proven will Day, Corey Dennis, Pantoni and everyone else involved in the recruiting process for the Buckeyes turn their focus to the physical tools. That’s why it’s so hard for Ohio State to pinpoint a 2022 quarterback option right now.
“I’m looking at accuracy and completion percentage,” Pantoni said last September. “Then, we’re also looking at competitors. We’re always checking to see what their high school record is. Do they lead their team to wins. Do they put their team on their backs?
“Then after that, arm strength is always good, but that’s kind of the second tier of things. So, we want to make sure they’re getting the ball to where it needs to go and they have a high success rate.”
Does a quarterback at Ohio State need to run a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash? No, but he can’t be a statue. There are few exceptions where the Buckeyes will recruit a quarterback who can’t get that 40-yard dash done in under five seconds but that’s the case at every position these days.
Does he need to throw the ball 75 yards? No, but if the guy with the football on every play can’t throw it where it needs to be and on time, he can’t play for Ryan Day. The Buckeyes are not just developing quarterbacks to win games in the Big Ten anymore. It’s about preparing the young men who entrust Ohio State with their futures for the chance to play at the next level at sports most valuable position while winning games.
“He prepares you with the quarterback mindset to play at the next level,” Avery told Lettermen Row. “That’s all you can ask for as a college quarterback, someone who is going to teach you and help you get better and help you grow as a quarterback.”
Few programs in the country are growing at quarterback like Ohio State. Having a clear vision of what the Buckeyes expect at the position is primary reason for the recent success.