I just want to preface this thread by saying these are not things I am saying I wish happened, or trying to disrespect players at all. It is just a hypothetical that I think is fun to discuss.
It's spring ball of 2015, Braxton Miller has switched to receiver, JT Barrett is coming off of a season ending ankle injury in a 42-28 win over TTUN, and Cardale Jones is coming off the best 3 game run from a backup QB ever. Because Cardale would eventually win the job and start the first half of the season for the Bucks, let's assume he had a slight lead at least going in to fall camp. JT Barrett is going to be a RS-Sophomore, and Cardale a RS-Junior.
JT, assuming that Cardale will start for the next 2 years, decides to transfer. Some potential landing spots would have been; Houston, with former OC Tom Herman. Texas, his home state team still stuck on Tyrone Swoopes. Florida State, Jameis Winston has just been drafted and FSU needs a replacement. Lastly, Oregon. The Ducks would eventually go to the portal and land Vernon Adams from Eastern Washington.
The QB depth chart now looks as so, Cardale Jones (JR), Joe Burrow (FR), Stephen Collier (FR), Torrance Gibson (FR).
This is a super thin group, Gibson would end up playing receiver for the Buckeyes, and transfer out as he did anyway. Collier and Burrow would be the battle for the #2 spot in the depth chart, and lets just assume Burrow wins that battle.
It's hard to really say that Cardale Jones would have made the outcome against MSU in 2015 any different, or any other games. So let's assume the Bucks finish 12-1 with a Fiesta Bowl win over the Fighting Irish.
Cardale Jones is now either going to be a Senior, or go to the NFL Draft. But by evaluating his performance in 2015 he stays in school, and OSU has brought in 4-star Dwayne Haskins in the 2016 class.
This part is crazy to think about to me, Cardale Jones leads the Buckeyes into Norman, Oklahoma. Noah Brown is the star receiver and they still pull out the win as they did originally. The Bucks would lose @ Penn State in the real season, and I don't know that a more pro-style QB in Happy Valley would've helped the Bucks. Again, we assume OSU had the same record, they go to the playoff and play Clemson... Let's not act as if Cardale is making up 31 points for us. Cardale Jones' final game in a Buckeye uniform is a loss to Clemson in the CFP Semifinal.
Ohio State brings in Tate Martell the following off season, and the depth chart is now interesting. We have to remember that because Jones was a year ahead of Barrett, Burrow is still ahead of Haskins on the depth chart as a RS-Sophomore, Haskins is a RS-Freshman. This also marks the first season of Ryan Day as OC.
Burrow starts the season with a Thursday night win on the road @ Indiana, giving OSU 2 extra days to prepare for Oklahoma to come to the shoe the next week. Now we must remember, despite Ohio State losing to Oklahoma 31-16, this was a close game for the majority of the way. Oklahoma took control late and Baker planted his flag. But I'm not sure that Joe Burrow doesn't get this one done, a lack of film on Burrow and a more prominent throwing threat gives the Buckeyes the win in this one. OSU goes on to beat Penn State, but still loses to Iowa the following week. Rather than a 1 loss non-conference champ Alabama in the playoffs. The 1-loss conference champ Buckeyes slide in at the 4 spot. They match up against Clemson... again. We have to remember that Alabama actually beats #1 Clemson in this matchup, I'm not saying OSU does. But I'm calling a really close loss... back to back losses to end the season in 2016 & 2017.
Entering 2018 Burrow remains starter with Haskins behind him as the RS-Sophomore. Martell is a RS-Freshman, and OSU brings in Matthew Baldwin who will RS.
OSU's awful defense costs them, and the record remains the same. Tyler Trent's special night in West Lafayette stands as it did, and the Buckeyes win in the Rose Bowl. Urban Meyer still retires, as the scandal would not have been changed by our hypotheticals.
Ryan Day steps in year 1, Joe Burrow can go one of two ways. Pro, or Senior year at OSU. If he goes pro, Dwayne Haskins and not Justin Fields is the starter for the Bucks this past year. If he stays in school, Dwayne Haskins transfers. Joe Burrow probably doesn't win the Heisman due to not having to play full games. LSU misses the playoff, Georgia beats a Mac Jones led 'Bama team and returns to the playoff. OSU is the #1 seed and destroys Oklahoma. Clemson and Georgia battle, and we get OSU Clemson in the National Championship. I truly think we win this with Burrow and maybe a different set of officials.
Going into the upcoming season the Buckeye QB depth chart looks like...
(assuming Baldwin could still play, best wishes to him)
1a. Matthew Baldwin
1b. Tate Martell
2a. CJ Stroud
2b. Jack Miller
Ohio State, rather than having future first-round pick Justin Fields at the helm is banking on Tate Martell, Matthew Baldwin, or a true freshman.
Rather than coming to OSU, Fields would've transferred somewhere else. Some spots I think he would've considered; Oklahoma (instead of Hurts), Miami, Florida State, Washington. Honestly who knows but this is crazy to even think about.
Sorry this was so long, and thanks if you made it this far. It's crazy how far the transfer portal has effected CFB. And if one player transferred from OSU the whole landscape of a program changes. JT Barrett's countless records wouldn't be held, which is crazy to even think about. I can't say I'd rather have our hypotheticals over JT, as much as he was frustrating. He's a legend.