The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the quarterbacks? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
What would you consider the Buckeye's weakest and strongest positions on both sides of the ball?
— Ji❌ Toney (@25jtone) January 15, 2020
(EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s a loaded, intriguing question, so Lettermen Row will take it in piecesÂ throughout the week. It’s also hard to consider any position at Ohio State much of a weakness thanks to one of the most loaded rosters in the country, but we’ll certainly dive into the units withÂ something to prove.)
Ohio State survived the hard part, and it came out on the other side in better shape than just about anybody could have reasonably expected at the most important position on the field.
Starting with the transfer of Joe Burrow and continuing through the early entry to the NFL Draft of Dwayne Haskins and the losses of Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin, the Buckeyes obviously had their hands full with a complete, turbulent overhaul of the depth chart at quarterback. Obviously capping it off by landing Justin Fields after he left Georgia was a program-changer for Ohio State, but it still had to wait for his eligibility to be instantly approved — and it still wasn’t a certainty that he would blossom into a Heisman Trophy finalist in his first year as a starter.
If Fields hadn’t been cleared to play or he had been more seriously hurt, the Buckeyes undoubtedly would have suffered a drop-off with only the largely untested combination of Chris Chugunov and Gunnar Hoak in reserve. So, the margin for error was razor thin for the Buckeyes — but all that is in the past now.
Nothing can ever be taken for granted at quarterback in this day and age of college football, of course. But the current situation for Ohio State is about as close to ideal as it can possibly get heading into the 2020 season.
Once Fields has a chance to fully recover from the knee injury that slowed him down late last year, he should be in line for a step forward thanks to another offseason of physical improvements with strength coach Mickey Marotti and positional development in Year Two operating coach Ryan Day’s system. The junior-to-be is already one of the most productive players in the country, and he’s only going to get better.
That’s a fine place to start, obviously. But it’s the depth building behind Fields that makes the unit so strong for the Buckeyes, helping provide insurance for the national-title contenders in the present and paving the way for the future once the dual-threat weapon moves on to the NFL. Hoak has experience and will be more comfortable in the system, but most eyes will be on the way touted early enrollees C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller hit the ground running this spring. Given their impressive sets of skills, maturity and head start on the learning curve, the backup job could be in reach for both of them by the end of training camp in August.
“I think for the situation that we have, it’s unbelievable because you have Justin and you have Gunnar,” Day said. “But other than that, there’s nobody in the program other than some of the other walk-ons who are still developing, and we hope they become candidates to win a backup job or whatever.
“[Stroud and Miller] want to get in here and get developed, and I think they see what we’re doing on offense and it’s exciting to them.”
Neither of the freshmen have to be The Guy right away for the Buckeyes, which is a reminder of just how successful the renovation of the quarterback room has been for the program.
Now, the best appears yet to come.
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