COLUMBUS, Ohio — On the same day that Michigan found out that it’ll have a college football season, it saw its potential starting quarterback Dylan McCaffrey enter the transfer portal.
Weird timing, but also provides some normalcy to a year that has been anything but. Only one quarterback plays, and if a fourth-year player feels he doesn’t have that opportunity to do so, he’ll probably look elsewhere in the age of the transfer portal.
Ohio State football knows that world well.
In 2018, that scenario is why Joe Burrow left for LSU while Dwayne Haskins threw 50 touchdown passes. That worked out for all parties in the end, with both being Heisman Trophy finalists and first-round NFL Draft picks.
But that world is also why the Buckeyes were in a desperate place at the position last season. Head coach Ryan Day brought in Justin Fields leading to a game of musical chairs in the quarterback room that ended with Chris Chugunov and Gunnar Hoak as his backups.
The good thing for Ohio State is that it only took one recruiting cycle to put the room back together again. The 2020 class added C.J. Stroud on Signing Day alongside Jack Miller, who’d spent two years committed while finding five-star Kyle McCord in 2021. The battle to be Fields’ successor starts in January. Then we’ll see if Ohio State will once again have to rebuild the room.
McCaffrey’s departure means Joe Milton is probably the Wolverines starter as a redshirt sophomore, just as Haskins was at Ohio State. But there’s one blinding difference: Haskins and Burrow spent three years together battling to be a backup to a player that both were better than.
It’s easier to say that in hindsight, but some thought Haskins should have and could have been the starter in 2017 even with J.T. Barrett on the roster.
Shea Patterson was the roadblock keeping McCaffrey and Milton off the field in Ann Arbor. In many ways, he was like Barrett: good, not great. But there wasn’t some outcry of fans pleading to bench him in favor of his backups.
Ohio State’s quarterback situation was miles ahead of Michigan’s this season even before McCaffrey decided to leave. Things could even out in January when both add five-star recruits to its roster. But the Buckeyes will still have an advantage in the depth column, even if it could potentially be short-lived.
Five-star 2021 recruit J.J. McCarthy is the future at Michigan, and he will compete to start as a true freshman next season. But like with McCord at OSU, you can’t just assume that because someone’s a five-star quarterback that he’ll be the next version of Trevor Lawrence or Tua Tagovailoa. They, too, could go shopping in the transfer portal looking for a former highly-rated quarterback come winter.
The Buckeyes can look at what Michigan’s quarterback room is six weeks from the start of the Big Ten season and feel like they’re looking at their 2018 selves. They rolled out the situation in the best possible way by adding a sure-fire transfer and recruiting a bevy of top 100 talent. Day can do that because of his reputation as a quarterback developer. Jim Harbaugh is now trying to change his quarterback room and do the same in Ann Arbor.
And even though the Wolverines can look to Columbus as a blueprint for how the next 12 months should go, you can’t assume it will work out the same.
The quarterback situations provide another reason on the long list of why Ohio State’s football program is so far ahead of Michigan’s. At least for this season.
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