Our look toward the upcoming football season by profiling the incoming freshmen continues this week with the third installment of the Better Know a Buckeye series. The subject of this week's profile is Joe Burrow, a quarterback from Athens. Burrow was a relative unknown when he committed to Ohio State, but became quite a visible prospect shortly thereafter. He even appeared on ESPN's Sportscenter in the past few months. None of this is because of a bump in a profile that followed Ohio State taking a flyer on him.
- Size: 6-4/200
- Position: QB
- School: Athens (The Plains, OH)
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 306
- Position Ranking: 9 (DUAL)
- State Ranking: 13
- Senior stats: 68 TDs (63 passing), 2 INTs, 5,087 total yards
- Semper Fidelis All-American
- AP Mr. Football (Ohio)
- 2x Gatorade Player of the Year
- All-Ohio Division III
Burrow is also conspicuous in this class because his commitment on May 27, 2014 broke a dry spell in this recruiting class that lasted almost six months. Jamel Dean, the subject of last week's profile, committed on the first of December in 2013. His recruitment simmered for several months while big programs like Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State pursued other targets. Burrow may have been a "Plan B", but he'll enter the program as one of the more decorated prospects.
I retell his recruitment and commitment below. I next turn my attention to what Burrow can contribute to Ohio State football in the coming years. I conclude with the projection of a redshirt status in 2015 and provide highlight film of Burrow for you to watch.
Joe Burrow had a great 2013 season. He ran 111 times for 589 yards and nine touchdowns. He also completed 71.2 percent of his 306 passes for 3,732 yards and 47 touchdowns (to only seven interceptions). He also guided Athens to an undefeated regular season and post-season run that ended in the state quarterfinals.
More Burrow at 11W
Joe Burrow had a great junior season but wasn't attracting serious attention from major college programs in the region or around the country. Through the winter and early spring, Burrow's offers were from Boston College, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Iowa State, NC State, and West Virginia.
While it's convenient to dismiss Burrow's plight as one of the high school that he attended (in a relative backwater in the state and with no strong football tradition of which to speak), the more accurate answer may draw reference to some players higher on the board at places like Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State. Brandon Wimbush, in particular, was the object of an intense recruiting battle among those three programs, committing to Penn State over Ohio State before later flipping to and signing with Notre Dame.
Ohio State's coaches took a stronger look at Burrow around the time when it became clear that Wimbush wouldn't be selecting Ohio State. Eleven Warriors reported the contact started around the beginning of April. He made his first unofficial visit to Ohio State a few days prior. Tom Herman communicated to Burrow that they loved his improvement from 2012 to 2013 and that they would visit him later in the spring.
When Wimbush committed to Penn State on May 6th, Ohio State's coaches pondered the next quarterback offer. There were two front-runners, at least as far as fans knew. One was Burrow, who had appeared on the Ohio State recruitnik's radar last month. The other was a more high-profile option, Travis Waller of Anaheim, California. It took about three weeks before Ohio State formally decided on Burrow. He received a scholarship offer on May 27th. He immediately accepted.
Joe Burrow's surprise May 27th commitment gave Ohio State just their third commitment in the class to that point. It also broke a dry spell dating back to Jamel Dean's commitment of December 1 of the last year. There were rumors earlier in the day about the commitment, but Burrow's tweet made it official.
I am excited to announce that i am committed to THE Ohio State University. #BuckeyeNation
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) May 27, 2014
Burrow is not a traditional in-state recruit. He was born in Ames, Iowa and spent some of his formative years in Lincoln, Nebraska. His father and his brothers played for Nebraska. His father was an assistant coach for Frank Solich before eventually following him to Athens in 2005. Accepting Urban Meyer's scholarship offer was less about pursuing a life-long dream of playing for the Buckeyes and more about not wasting time with a scholarship offer he knew was as good as it could get for him on the recruiting trail.
WHERE HE EXCELS
Burrow was a low three-star recruit when he committed to Ohio State. He's a solid four-star now, per 247 Composite, andthe "median recruit" in Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class (14th highest-ranked prospect among the 27 signees).
Some of this is the greater visibility afforded to Burrow when he committed to Ohio State. A better explanation is Burrow is beginning to realize how good he can be. He grew up around football coaches his entire life, but only started to take the sport more seriously midway through high school. Before then, Burrow fancied himself more as a basketball prospect than a football prospect.
Growing up surrounded by football coaches afforded Burrow resources that most high school football recruits don't have. This manifests in Burrow being advanced at a bunch of small things. Burrow's arm strength may be average at best, but he's consistent in his delivery on deep, intermediate, and short throws. It is not uncommon for quarterbacks whose greatest attribute is "arm strength" to struggle with the touch needed on intermediate throws.
One reason for optimism about Burrow among Ohio State's coaches is his competitiveness and leadership of his Athens Bulldogs team. The southeast pocket of Ohio is the weakest region in the state for high school football; Athens had some fine seasons before Burrow took over as starting quarterback, but it never fared well in postseason runs.
Burrow led Athens to the quarterfinals as a junior and took an undefeated Bulldogs team to the state championship game as a senior before falling short in a classic against Toledo Central Catholic. The more the season progressed, the more confident Burrow got, and the better he performed. Near the season's end, he was even performing trick plays that got him on Sportscenter.
For most other teams, characterizing Burrow as "a confident and capable quarterback who isn't spectacular at one thing but doesn't screw anything up" would label Burrow as a "game manager". In other words, Burrow would only be as a good a quarterback as the talent is surrounding him. If you watched Ohio State football lately, you'll know that's no issue and that the ceiling is quite high for Burrow at quarterback accordingly.
MUST WORK ON
Burrow has ideal size for the position. He's listed at 6-4 and 200 pounds. However, he'll want to make the most of his time in the weight room his first year on campus. He has a quarterback's frame, but he is not particularly strong.
Since Burrow has focused on the sport for only the past couple years, there's a lot about his game that's changing. He doesn't get a solid base underneath him much of the time, meaning that his footwork is in flux. His release point is changing, and ideally he would get the ball out of his hands faster. His mechanics are fluid at the moment, which means they may be a bit erratic. Changing mechanics may make for some bumps along the road.
Yes. Have you seen Ohio State's quarterback stable lately?
The following highlight film is various practice and game footage from 2014.
Footage of his six-touchdown performance in the state championship game follows.
This is Joe Burrow throwing a forward pass to himself for a touchdown.