Ohio State wide receivers coach — and the head recruiter for four-star quarterback Torrance Gibson — Zach Smith wasn't really sure what the reason was for all of the discussion.
Gibson was one of the most gifted athletes in the 2015 recruiting class, but a lot of other people didn't see him as a college signal-caller. They wanted him to be something else. Ohio State didn't.
“Torrance is talented enough to play anything on the field, but you watch him throw the football, and there were a lot of questions about can he be a quarterback and is he an athlete and can he throw the ball?" Smith said Wednesday after Gibson officially signed with the Buckeyes. "To be honest, we were kind of confused by the confusion. I watched him throw live in July, I watched him throw live in practice in the spring and I watched him throw live in a game in the fall and then he goes out to the Army (All-American) game and they were talking about how he was one of the best quarterbacks there."
That's part of why it was such a grueling process to get Gibson to sign with Ohio State. The Buckeyes said all along they wanted the 6-foot-4, 204-pound Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native to play quarterback, but did they really need one?
Ohio State already had four scholarship quarterbacks on its roster — Braxton Miller, J.T.
“Don't penalize us because our guys play real well. Everybody has three or four quarterbacks, it you don't you're struggling. Our three or four happen to play really well. Don't hold that against us.”– Urban Meyer
Barrett, Cardale Jones and Stephen Collier — and it had another one, Joe Burrow, already in the 2015 class. Teams tried to use that situation against the Buckeyes in the recruitment of Gibson, even though he had already committed to play for Ohio State.
"The thing I asked Torrance is, don't penalize us because our guys play real well," head coach Urban Meyer said. "Everybody has three or four quarterbacks, if you don't you're struggling. Our three or four happen to play really well. Don't hold that against us. Because Cardale might leave after next year, and Braxton is out, you're down to one, maybe two. Don't hold that against us. Come and compete for the spot."
A brilliant strategy by Meyer, yet Gibson still found himself taking visits to other schools. He visited LSU, Auburn and Miami after committing to the Buckeyes. And people began to wonder if he was going to flip from Ohio State come National Signing Day.
But when Gibson visited those other schools, the Buckeyes saw that as a positive thing.
“My mentality in recruiting — and it’s not just because they pay my paycheck — I really believe Ohio State is different than anywhere else because I know it is. I grew up here and I’ve loved this university since the time I was an infant," Smith said. "So when Torrance Gibson says he wants to go elsewhere, in my opinion that’s just going to help sell us. He’s going to go to other places and see that they’re really cool, they’re really good but they’re just not quite Ohio State and in the end that’s what happened.”
It's easy to sell Ohio State to a kid from Ohio. But to a kid from Florida like Gibson requires a bit more work.
"You get a guy out of south Florida, he's more of a fit, you really have to grind to get," Meyer said. "I don't think it's gratifying, but to get a guy — the amount of time on Torrance was ridiculous, but he seemed always to be a natural fit offensively."
It took a lot of effort and a lot of time to get Gibson to Columbus. He explored his options and his decision came down to the wire. But the Buckeyes are certainly happy to have him on board.
"Torrance, he initially fell in love with Ohio State and then felt like he needed to explore the world, per se, before he got married," Smith said. "In the end, this is the place he wanted to be.”