Urban Meyer remembers only one other time in his career where he had as much quarterback talent as he does right now at Ohio State. It happened when two of the four individuals eventually became Heisman Trophy winners.
“Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Brantley and Jeff Driskel, I think those were all fives,” Meyer said on Tuesday after Ohio State's first spring practice of 2017.
Those four players were all five-star recruits, so the talent available was an unbelieveable surplus. What Meyer and new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day have to work with this spring isn't too far behind, however.
Three-time captain, two-time Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and fifth-year senior J.T. Barrett is back to lead the charge. Former four-star recruit Joe Burrow served as his backup in 2016, and a pair of high four-star recruits Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell are by no means slouches.
“We had a lengthy discussion and this is the most important thing: How do you split up reps between a guy like Tate Martell who, Tate Martell thinks he’s playing,” Meyer said. “Don’t no one tell him he’s not going to play.
“Joe Burrow is one of the toughest cats and competitive guys. Dwayne Haskins, we still haven’t seen his ceiling yet.”
Barrett is the clear-cut starter, a team leader with 20 school records to his name a 26-5 record as a starter in three seasons. Only he and Burrow wore black practice jerseys on Tuesday, however, which would seem to indicate they are the first two in the pecking order.
Meyer said Barrett is "going to get a ton of reps" this spring despite being a fifth-year guy because he needs to fall in line with what Day and new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson are inserting into the plan. Ohio State's struggles in the passing game last season, its attrition at wide receiver and the need to be more balance on offense forced that envelope.
“J.T. will be full speed ahead,” Meyer said. “The emphasis is going to be on hitting the deep ball.”
Enter Day and Wilson. The latter is known as an offensive mastermind who loves tempo, which is what Meyer said got lost the last two seasons with Ed Warinner and Tim Beck coordinating the offense. Meyer sat down with Wilson and Day and watched every snap of Ohio State's run to the national title in 2014. The purpose: to sear into their brains how that unit shredded three of the nation's best defenses on the way to glory.
“I sat down there with them with a clicker and said 'this is what I want it to look like.' The one common denominator in all those games was we hit the deep ball,” Meyer said. “It's who we are. We're going to pound the football at you and we're going to go over the top. When that works, life's pretty good offensively.
“When it doesn't, when you misfire or we get sacked or have a problem, that's obviously when it doesn't.”
Ohio State's first game of the 2017 season is on Aug. 31 at Indiana, 177 days away. The Buckeyes practice 14 more times this spring, including the annual intrasquad scrimmage on April 15. Fall camp awaits in August.
Meyer said Day knows Ohio State's system because of his time spent as a graduate assistant at the University of Florida in the head coach's first year in Gainesville. Day's NFL experience and knowledge of the quarterback position has led to positive early returns from Barrett and Co., Meyer said.
He added his initial reaction to Wilson's work in Columbus has been "over the top."
“He’s one of the soldiers and we’re going to work,” Meyer said of his new offensive coordinator.
With Tuesday in the books, that is one less day to get everything how the head coach wants it before August hits.
The clock is ticking. Figuring how who will back up Barrett and having him ready for Week 1 against the Hoosiers won't end anytime soon. Plus, keeping all that talent happy in the quarterbacks room is a hurdle.
“Yes, it’s a perfect situation but you also have to think through and manage reps because you’re also dealing with personalities, too, of these very talented guys,” Meyer said.