It’s not like Urban Meyer has had a chance to use that line often in his career, anyways. The fourth-year Ohio State head coach had Alex Smith for both of his years at Utah and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow for four years at Florida before inheriting Braxton Miller when he arrived in Columbus.
But when Meyer accepted his first quarterback commitment of the 2015 class last May, it looked like the rising senior Miller would be gone before Athens, Ohio, four-star Joey Burrow ever set foot on campus. Last summer, the other three signal callers – sophomore Cardale Jones, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett and true freshman Stephen Collier – had combined to throw for 3 career yards. Three.
One year later, it’s hard to imagine a more different situation at the position relative to expectations. The Buckeyes now boast two top-five Heisman Trophy vote getters in addition to, you know, the guy that won them their first national championship in more than a decade. The depth chart also includes Collier and two incoming freshmen, Burrow and the highly acclaimed Torrance Gibson, who were both four-star recruits.
Meyer somehow held onto both of them in February, but it wasn’t without a drastic pivot in recruiting strategy. There was no way to promise early playing time, so Meyer steered into the skid and promised greatness instead.
“Don't penalize us because our guys play real well,” is how Meyer described his new approach. “Everybody has three or four quarterbacks. If you don't, you're struggling. Our three or four happen to play really well. Don't hold that against us. Because Cardale might leave after next year, and Braxton is out, you're down to one, maybe two. Don't hold that against us. Come and compete for the spot. You go from Braxton to J.T., don't penalize the Ohio State Buckeyes because all four played well.”
It worked on Gibson and Burrow, and it’s already showing it can work in the 2016 cycle, too. In mid-April, the Buckeyes landed a commitment from DeSoto, Texas, quarterback Tristen Wallace. At No. 99 in the country, the four-star athlete is one of seven Scout 100 prospects currently committed to Ohio State in the class of 2016.
Wallace said Meyer used the aforementioned approach with him, but he may not have had to. Even though anywhere from three to five other quarterbacks could be on the Ohio State roster in 2016 when Wallace arrives, he’s never shied away from competition.
“I come from Texas, and that’s probably the best high school football players in the land,” he told BuckeyeSports.com shortly after committing in April. “I’ve never been scared to compete against anybody or anyone.”
Two months later, while visiting Ohio State on June 19, Wallace doubled down on that sentiment. When asked what it says about him that he’d commit to a school with so many quarterbacks already on the roster – most of whom will still be there when he arrives – Wallace said he preferred it that way.
“I don’t want the easy way out,” he said. “I want the hardest route. If that means going through three stars at quarterback, learning from them every day, I’ll do it. I’m trying to do everything it takes to play for Coach Meyer and play for Coach Beck.
“When I came up here and got to spend time with Dontre and talk to Braxton Miller and J.T., it felt like home. You get the best coaching with Urban Meyer, and they work hard. That’s what I want to do. I want to outwork everyone in the country, every school. That’s why I came here.”
Even though the message changed, the recruiting results for Meyer remained the same.