Upon getting the ball back, Collier threw it again, causing Herman to say even more loudly, “There you go Steve!”
Herman smiled and Collier smiled, but they might have been different smiles. Collier’s was accompanied by a shake of the head and a look of relief, while Herman had the look of a coach who was finally seeing what he wanted out of his newest pupil.
It had been a long journey already to that point for Collier, who graduated early from high school in Leesburg, Ga., before enrolling last January. He hadn’t received many reps in spring as the Buckeyes went about finding a backup for Braxton Miller – now it seems rather fortuitous that Cardale Jones and Barrett got most of the reps at the time – and also had reshaped his body from a skinny high school kid into more of a muscular signal caller.
Looking back, Collier can laugh again. He knows that the pressure Herman – who was OSU’s quarterbacks coach through the season before becoming head coach at Houston – was putting on at the time was for his own good, the coach’s effort to make sure Collier was on the right track even as he entered a redshirt year spent mostly on Ohio State’s scout team.
Collier also knows he had a lot to work on when he arrived despite an excellent high school career that earned him three-star status and an invite to some of the top camps in the country.
“A lot of it for me was I gained so much weight when I came here,” he said near the end of the season. “I came in at 200 and now I’m at 222, so getting adjusted to my new body, it’s underlooked when you move from high school from college. One of the things for me was drawing my ball back and following through and making sure my base was good, just working on my feet all the way up to my upper body. It’s been a big transition.”
Meanwhile, Collier was the one Buckeye scholarship quarterback to not see the field in 2014 thanks to the well-documented injuries to Miller and Barrett and the corresponding rises of Barrett and Jones, respectively.
But it was a year of learning for Collier, who picked up a lot of tips and pointed from the three quarterbacks ahead of him.
“You know, coming from high school, the game is so much more slow,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to say dumbed down, but it’s definitely watered down. When you come to this level, you have to be on it. Learning from Braxton and J.T. and Cardale, they’re all so smart and so knowledgeable about the game. I’m light years ahead of from when I came in.”
Collier did in fact take a redshirt in 2014, and he wasn’t even in the mix at the end of the year when Jones was the lone other healthy scholarship QB. The Buckeyes made high school quarterback Jalin Marshall the backup in order to preserve Collier’s redshirt, and he spent bowl practices mimicking Alabama QB Blake Sims and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in practice sessions.
Thus, it was a common sight to see Collier getting extra reps throwing the ball on team’s practice fields after practice sessions, all in an effort to make sure he was staying on the track of improvement to be ready when called upon starting in 2015.
“You’re always trying to refine your craft and work on things you’re not as good at,” he said. “There’s always things you can improve on. I am always trying to give the defense a better look, so that’s my time to get better on what I’m lacking.”
While he learned on the field this past year, Collier also learned off of it. The adversity to hit the quarterback room in 2014 drove home the message that anything can happen, and Collier saw firsthand how to deal with both the good times and bad.
“You never know what might happen, you really don’t,” he said. “It’s been crazy, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, and I’m really grateful to be part of this team. I’ve made a great amount of memories and I wouldn’t trade this year for anything.”