Ohio State's quarterback battle may very well be one of the top national storylines heading into the 2018 season. While Dwayne Haskins was the clear No. 2 option a season ago, no one is expecting Joe Burrow – or even Tate Martell for that matter – to go down without a fight.
The roster is set to feature four quarterbacks this season with Burrow being a redshirt junior, Haskins a redshirt sophomore, Martell a redshirt freshman, and newly signed Texan Matthew Baldwin having already matriculated at Ohio State.
Looking down the road a bit, Urban Meyer and Ryan Day are already hot on the trail for a number of the country's top 2019 signal callers. Even with plenty of depth on the roster, it's always wise to expect the unexpected, and taking at least one quarterback in every recruiting class is generally the standard practice.
We've mentioned it countless times, but quarterback recruiting is just a different animal when compared to the other positions. Decisions tend to be made earlier on in the process and oftentimes a commit/de-commit can have far-reaching implications across the college football landscape.
A lot is certainly yet to unfold, but the Buckeyes are sure to bring in at least one quarterback for the 2019 class. And one has to think the staff will do everything in their power to avoid another Emory Jones saga.
Ohio State has offered nine quarterbacks thus far — three of the pro-style variety and six that are listed as dual-threats. Four of these players are currently committed elsewhere, so there hasn't necessarily been a ton of reciprocated interest for each of the offered prospects.
Let's take a look at the top names to know at this point in the process; listed according to their national ranking.
Grant Gunnell • Houston, Texas • 6-foot-6, 212 pounds • ★★★★ • Nat. Rank: 50
Ohio State extended an offer to Grant Gunnell – the country's No. 2 pro-style passer – last Tuesday. The Houston native then promptly turned around and backed off of his commitment to Texas A&M. That caused some excitement throughout the fanbase, but it's probably a bit too early for any optimism here.
The Aggies had been expecting the decommitment for some time even before the Buckeye offer. Both of Gunnell's parents graduated from Arkansas and schools like Oklahoma State and LSU are also firmly in the mix.
Last night Andrew Lind discussed Gunnell's upcoming visit to Columbus, which is certainly a step in the right direction. The Buckeyes have also offered his teammate Jalen Curry, and the four-star is already throwing out the "dream school" label when discussing Ohio State.
No need to freak out about the whole "pro-style" thing. Gunnell is a quarterback who can absolutely move around with the football in his hands. That much is apparent after watching the above highlights (even just the first play).
His recruitment seems to be fairly open right now, but recently the crystal balls have been coming in hot and heavy for Oklahoma State.
Bo Nix • Pinson, AL • 6-foot-1.5, 194 pounds • ★★★★ • Nat. Rank: 75
We won't spend too much time on the Auburn commitment, but Bo Nix is at least worth mentioning. We've been told the Tiger legacy was identified early on as the Buckeyes top target at the position. The problem obviously was that everyone knew he was going to end up at Auburn, and the nation's No. 1 dual-threat passer made things official when he committed on Jan. 10.
Stranger things have happened in the crazy world of college football recruiting, so I suppose if he were to ever back off of that pledge then this one would be worth monitoring again.
Dwan Mathis • Belleville, MI • 6-foot-5, 195 pounds • ★★★★ • Nat. Rank: 231
Dwan Mathis is the only player on our list who currently does not hold an Ohio State offer. The Belleville, Michigan native has camped in Columbus and looked spectacular on more than one occasion. A one-time Iowa State commit, Mathis has been a part of the Spartans' class since last September. Four-star teammate Julian Barnett does hold a Buckeye offer, but he too has pledged to Mark Dantonio.
There's still a lot of turmoil surrounding Michigan State athletics, and we will see if the Buckeyes choose to get involved in this one.
Grant Tisdale • Allen, Texas • 6-foot-1, 204 pounds • ★★★★ • Nat. Rank: 276
Grant Tisdale may be the name we've talked most about this cycle, and right now the Buckeyes are the leaders in the clubhouse on the crystal ball. The Texan doesn't have the ideal size for the position, but he truly excels in the read option game. He's faster than J.T. Barrett but doesn't possess the lower-body strength at this point in his career.
The Buckeyes extended an offer last May, and that was before the nation's No. 8 dual-threat ever even started a varsity football game. The four-star would later put together a fine camp performance in Columbus and seemed well on his way to being the guy for 2019.
Still, the general consensus was that the Ohio State staff wanted to see how his junior season unfolded before being ready to accept a commitment.
The Longhorns already have one in the fold for the class, but the Gunnell decommitment means that the Aggies are back on the prowl for a quarterback. We've been told that Tisdale was extremely close to committing to Ohio State a few months back, but that obviously never happened.
As a junior facing elite competition, he threw for just shy of 2,000 yards with 28 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He added another 945 yards and 14 scores with his legs. Allen High School finished the season 16-0 and captured its fifth state title with a win over Buckeye signee Matthew Baldwin and his Lake Travis squad.
The "feel" right now is that the staff still wants to see a bit more development in the passing game, but Tisdale's junior highlights definitely seem to pass the test; both as a runner and a passer.
Graham Mertz • Leawood, KS • 6-foot-4, 205 pounds • ★★★★ • Nat. Rank: 323
Graham Mertz committed to Wisconsin in October, and his stock has absolutely skyrocketed since then. In the last month, Ohio State, Georgia, LSU, and Alabama have all extended offers. In fact Nick Saban just tossed his crimson hat into the ring yesterday, and that certainly has some Wisconsin fans on edge.
We've been told that right now Mertz is the guy that Ryan Day has really got his eyes on. He thew for nearly 3,700 yards as a junior to go along with 45 touchdowns and six interceptions. It's not often the Buckeyes recruit the state of Kansas, but this is definitely one of those times.
Mertz is listed as the country's No. 9 pro-style passer, but he's another player with plenty of mobility to move around in the pocket. This may be the one to watch the most closely as we continue to move through the recruiting calendar.
Overall, this isn't shaping up to be too great of a class at the position, but players always seem to blow up during their senior seasons. Right now Ohio State's top quarterback target in the country may very well be Scottsdale's Jack MIller — a member of the 2020 recruiting class.
The new recruiting calendar will allow official visits between April and June, so this may actually cause more quarterbacks to come off the board even sooner than we're used to. The downside to this is that teams may be put in a tough spot where they're forced to make a decision before the senior seasons unfold.
It's probably still safe to say that Tisdale is the most likely of the names on the list, but Mertz and Gunnell's recruitments are sure to have some twists and turns. It'll be interesting to see how the Ohio State staff handles things after the fiasco that went down for the Class of 2018.