Ohio State offensive coordinators Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson still don’t know who the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback will be this season – or at least they didn’t know at the time they met with the media on Wednesday afternoon.
Urban Meyer and his 10 assistant coaches were set to have their first staff meeting since Saturday’s spring game later Wednesday afternoon, where a conversation on the decision the Buckeyes face between Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell was sure to be on the agenda.
Four days removed from the spring game, however, Day – who is also the Buckeyes’ quarterbacks coach – said he and his fellow coaches were still evaluating the film from spring practices before determining how they should proceed forward this fall.
"We said we weren’t going to focus on anything during spring other than getting better," Day said. "And then at the end we were going to take all the film, all the grades and compile them together and go from there. So we’re still in that process."
With the main objective this spring of each quarterback improving individually and collectively, Day feels like they were able to accomplish that.
"The guys did a good job competing," Day said. "The whole focus was getting the guys better, and I thought everybody got better during spring, which is great. And that’s the whole focus. And we’ve got a great room, and that’s something to be proud of."
It’s hard to imagine that Day, Meyer or any coach involved in the quarterback decision wouldn’t have had that decision on their minds throughout the spring, but Day said he really tried to keep his focus on doing everything he could to help his quarterbacks develop and to give each of them a fair shot in the competition.
"When you’re just focused hard on day-to-day and getting everybody better, we really focused hard on trying to make sure the reps were split up, so that everybody had a fair shot at this thing," Day said.
Wilson said he thought it was most important for the coaches to focus on developing their quarterbacks this spring, rather than ranking them, because of the possibility – referencing back to Ohio State’s 2014 season, when Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to a national championship after Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett went down with injuries – that the Buckeyes could ultimately need multiple quarterbacks to play regardless of who wins the starting job.
"You need more than one to play in this day and age to win, so you better have more than one," Wilson said. "I think all three are very, very good. I think we need all three to win, personally."
As for the quarterbacks themselves, Day acknowledged that all of them had their minds on trying to win the starting job and wanted to know where they stood – but that’s what he wants to see from them.
"That’s competing, and that’s a good thing for the position," Day said. "Because when you don’t have a competition, you don’t get better. But when you have competition like we do, that’s the positive of this thing. A lot of people say that’s negative. It’s not negative. These are guys who are trying to get better every day, and they have to bring it every day. Because if they have one bad day, somebody kind of jumps ahead. So that’s the best thing about this is that we got a good room, and we have some good players who are competing their tails off."
“I think all three are very, very good. I think we need all three to win, personally.”– Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson
Day and Wilson were both noncommittal when asked whether they felt like they needed to make a decision this week, or at least in short order. Day did say, though, that if the Buckeyes name a starting quarterback before fall camp, that quarterback would still be expected to compete for the job and prove he deserves it in preseason practices.
"Regardless of how the evaluations come out, the guys are going to have to go into preseason and compete anyways," Day said. "There is a month’s worth of practice coming up here. And so regardless of how that plays out, and who is ahead of who, they’re going to have to go into the preseason and compete anyways. Because if you go into the preseason and you don’t do well, then obviously you’re going to get affected by that as well. So it’s a process, and we’ll probably have a better idea here pretty soon."
Although Burrow has publicly acknowledged in multiple interviews that he is considering a graduate transfer if he does not win the starting job, Day said he did not necessarily expect that to speed up the timetable of the decision.
"Joe has said he wants to be a Buckeye. And he is a Buckeye, and he’s shown loyalty here," Day said. "So, that isn’t really changing anything."
Regardless of what Burrow or any of the quarterbacks might decide to do if they don’t win the job, however, Day and Wilson both said they did not expect those concerns to be a factor in who the Buckeyes choose as their starting quarterback.
"You trust the fact that guys chose Ohio State for a reason and they want to be a part of this," Day said. "The brotherhood, and being Nine Strong, and being there for your teammate is a part of it."
Wilson deferred to Meyer, trusting the Buckeyes’ head coach to make the decision to make the decision that "he thinks is ultimately best for the program," but he said he believed it would not be in the Buckeyes’ best interest to make a decision solely to try to keep a quarterback from transferring or being unhappy.
"When you make decisions worried about what the ripple effect would be, I don’t know if that’s always the best deal," Wilson said. "You don’t call the play sometimes saying 'OK, if this or this or this happens, and have a negative side effect.' I think you’ve got to, you trust your gut, you trust your instincts … and you make your decision, move forward accordingly. To sit here and say, 'Hey, I can only do this because something can happen,' I don’t think it’s fair."