As Ohio State continues its search for a quarterback, it’s become especially clear that this year’s crop of signal-callers isn’t particularly deep — nor is there an elite prospect with a perfect blend of size, arm strength and athleticism that screams ‘must-get’ prospect.
In fact, the Class of 2019 doesn’t have a single five-star quarterback.
There were three five-star signal callers last cycle in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Georgia’s Justin Fields and USC’s J.T. Daniels, each of whom was ranked among the Top 16 prospects nationally. For comparison’s sake, Oklahoma four-star commit Spencer Rattler leads this year’s batch of prospects at No. 41 overall.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” a scout told SB Nation’s Bud Elliott during the Elite 11 Finals earlier this month. “It’s like the position skipped a year.”
Head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day have echoed those sentiments on numerous occasions, so it’s no surprise they’ve struggled to find a quarterback they actually like this cycle. The Buckeyes have been connected to several names as a result, but the staff was never fell in love with or pushed hard for a commitment.
Ohio State appeared close to landing its quarterback when Texas four-star Grant Gunnell took an official visit in late April, but the two sides drifted apart over the next few weeks and he committed to Arizona earlier this month. The staff was simply never convinced he was the best signal caller in his class, so the search continues.
The Buckeyes have offers out to 14 quarterbacks this cycle, but only two remain uncommitted. Twenty-three of the 26 four-star signal callers in this year’s 247Sports Composite Rankings have already made their decisions, which means the staff is either going to have to flip a prospect, offer a less-heralded quarterback or wait for one to emerge with a strong senior year.
All of those are less than ideal, but the reality of the situation.
|NAME||STARS||HIGH SCHOOL||COMMITMENT STATUS|
|BO NIX||★★★★||PINSON VALLEY (AL)||AUBURN|
|RYAN HILINSKI||★★★★||ORANGE (CA) LUTHERAN||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|JAYDEN DANIELS||★★★★||SAN BERNARDINO (CA) CAJON||UNCOMMITTED|
|GRAHAM MERTZ||★★★★||MISSION (KS) BLUE VALLEY NORTH||WISCONSIN|
|SAM HOWELL||★★★★||MONROE (NC) SUN VALLEY||FLORIDA STATE|
|GRANT GUNNELL||★★★★||HOUSTON (TX) ST. PIUS X||ARIZONA|
|ROSCHON JOHNSON||★★★★||PORT NECHES (TX) GROVES||TEXAS|
|MICHAEL JOHNSON JR.||★★★★||EUGENE (OR) SHELDON||UNCOMMITTED|
|DWAN MATHIS||★★★★||OAK PARK (MI)||MICHIGAN STATE|
|LUKE MCCAFFREY||★★★★||LITTLETON (CO) VALOR CHRISTIAN||NEBRASKA|
|MAX DUGGAN||★★★★||COUNCIL BLUFFS (IA) LEWIS CENTRAL||TCU|
|JALON JONES||★★★★||BALTIMORE (MD) ST. FRANCES ACADEMY||FLORIDA|
|GRANT TISDALE||★★★★||ALLEN (TX)||OLE MISS|
|TA'QUAN ROBERSON||★★★★||WAYNE (NJ) DEPAUL CATHOLIC||PENN STATE|
All that said, there is one player Meyer and Day are both sold on: Wisconsin four-star commit Graham Mertz. He visited campus earlier this spring while in town for a camp, but doesn’t appear to have any interest in reopening his recruitment — despite a ton of confidence among both the Ohio State and Notre Dame staffs in their chances to flip his pledge.
Mertz took his official visit to Madison this past weekend, which is a bit odd from a timing standpoint, but it did give him a chance to spend time with several of the Badgers’ current commits and coaching staff. Afterward, he told several reporters he was done with the constant speculation that surrounds his pledge.
A prospects recruitment truly isn’t over until he signs on the dotted line. But unless Mertz starts taking visits (*cough, cough* Emory Jones *cough*), we have to take him at his word.
The staff will continue to try to push for Mertz to take an official visit this fall, but the situation becomes even more dire the longer the search drags on.
Those close to the program — including myself — believe Ohio State would already have a quarterback had the staff offered Michigan State four-star Dwan Mathis following a pair of stellar camp performances last summer. They didn’t, and he committed to the Spartans a few months later.
The staff has circled back, obviously, but it appears to be too little, too late. He remains firm in his pledge, despite the Buckeyes’ efforts to get him to campus this spring.
I hope you’re sensing a theme, as South Carolina four-star commit Ryan Hilinski is also among the staff’s top-tier targets. The only issue, of course, is that he too says and does all the right things when it comes to his pledge to the Gamecocks.
Hilinski told Eleven Warriors last month he is open to visiting Ohio State, but wanted to first speak with South Carolina’s staff before doing so. He’s set to be in Columbia this weekend, so I’m curious if that conversation ever happens.
If Hilinski ultimately makes it to Columbus this summer, the Buckeyes will only have a few weeks to work on flipping his pledge. The NCAA-mandated dead period runs June 25-July 24, and given the distance from his hometown of Orange, California, an in-season visit is unlikely.
Beyond that, Ohio State has kicked the tires this spring — but has not offered — a number of three-star quarterbacks, including Archbishop Alter Connor Bazelak; Colorado commit Ty Evans; Florida’s Brian Maurer and Hayden Wolff; and Georgia’s Justin Fomby. In-state quarterback Michael Lowery is another name to keep in mind, but he’ll have to set the world on fire if he wants to add an offer from the Buckeyes late in the process.
The Buckeyes absolutely have to take a quarterback this cycle, but Meyer and Day haven’t reached the point where they have to settle on one just yet. There’s no doubt that time is fast approaching, though.