Looking Back At Years Ohio State Has Recruited More Than One QB

We examine how Ohio State signing multiple quarterbacks in one year has worked out over the years.

With the verbal commitment of highly regarded Tate Martell, Ohio State is in line to sign two quarterbacks in the class of 2017. 

Would Martell and long-time commit Danny Clark make history if they both sign in February? No, of course not, but they would put ’17 in a relatively small group of recruiting classes over the past three-plus decades to include multiple quarterbacks. 

Before coach Urban Meyer signed Joe Burrow and Torrance Gibson in 2015, more than a decade passed since the last time Ohio State signed a pair of quarterbacks with the intention of both enrolling for the upcoming season and beginning their careers at that position.

Meyer’s predecessor, Jim Tressel, never signed two quarterbacks in the same year unless there were extenuating circumstances — but both times it worked out pretty well for the Scarlet and Gray.

In 2011, Tressel added three-star Cleveland Glenville signal caller Cardale Jones to a class that already included five-star prospect Braxton Miller of Huber Heights Wayne but announced on National Signing Day that Jones would be delaying his arrival in Columbus by spending the fall at Fork Union Military Academy.

That bit of planning ahead certainly paid off as not only was Miller the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a two-time Big Ten MVP, Jones ended up as the starter while the Buckeyes won the Big Ten and national championship in 2014. Both were selected in the NFL draft this past April, too.

In 2002, Tressel signed highly touted Justin Zwick, a record-setting passer at storied Massillon Washington High School, and Troy Smith, a highly rated but lesser-known prospect from then-little-known Cleveland Glenville High.

Although Zwick gobbled up most of the headlines at the time, both were rated four-star quarterback prospects — and the school listed Smith as an “athlete."

On National Signing Day, Tressel explained there were no guarantees for Smith, who also considered signing with Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia before opting to go with his home-state school.

"He may not start out taking snaps, but we know he can do it if need be," Tressel told reporters then. "We were very honest with him, told him that there probably would not be enough reps for two freshman quarterbacks, but that didn't seem to bother him.”

Smith redshirted during Ohio State’s 2002 national championship season and made his collegiate debut as a running back and kick returner in 2003. 

He did not ascend to starting quarterback until Zwick got hurt midway through the 2004 season, but he left an indelible mark on the sport's greatest rivalry before the season came to an end. 

Smith thrilled fans and stunned Michigan in the season finale with the first-ever 200-yard passing, 100-yard rushing game by a Buckeye, a performance that seemingly came out of nowhere and keyed a shocking upset of the 11th-ranked Wolverines, who had already sewed up part of the Big Ten championship. 

(Then Smith missed the bowl game as part of a two-game suspension for accepting illegal benefits from a booster.) 

He beat Michigan again and led the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title in 2005.

In ‘06, Smith became Ohio State's sixth Heisman Trophy winner after leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten championship and an undefeated regular season, though they lost the national championship game to Meyer’s Florida team. 

Since 1985, Ohio State has signed multiple quarterbacks nine times: 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2011 and 2015. 

One one third of those occasions, the decision ultimately played a major role in Ohio State at least appearing in the national title game. 

Aside from the two examples already mentioned, Ohio State signed Craig Krenzel of Utica (Michigan) Ford and Scott McMullen of Granville, Ohio, in 1999. 

Krenzel became the starter at the end of the 2001 season and was the Most Valuable Player of two Fiesta Bowls, including a double-overtime victory over Miami (Fla.) that made the Buckeyes national champions for the 2002 season. 

McMullen started one game in 2001 and two games for an injured Krenzel in 2003, wins over Bowling Green and Northwestern. He also came off the bench to throw the game-winning touchdown pass at Penn State after Krenzel was knocked out of the game.  

The other years did not yield such great results, although they were generally respectable. 

A trio of signees in ’86 included Cincinnati St. Xavier star Greg Frey, who went on to be a three-year starter in Columbus and is still fourth in school history with 6,316 career passing yards. 

Three QBs signed in 1988 and ’90, but only one of them ever became a regular starter, and he is better known for his post-playing career. That would be Kirk Herbstreit, a legacy recruit from Centerville High School who was the first Ohio State recruit for John Cooper. 

When he made his intention to be a Buckeye known, Herbstreit told BSB he grew up a huge fan of Ohio State, where his father, Jim, was a captain in 1960. 

“I would cry after Ohio State lost,” the younger Herbstreit said in October 1987. “I would play in the backyard and dream I was playing for the Buckeyes. I wanted to be the one to win the game in the final seconds to send them to the Rose Bowl.” 

In 1993, Ohio State’s three quarterback signees were Mark Zhan of Huntington, W. Va., Tom Hoying of St. Henry, Ohio, and Stanley Jackson of Patterson Catholic in New Jersey. 

After winning the starting job in 1996, Jackson became the first Buckeye quarterback to start a Rose Bowl victory in more than two decades. He shared time with Joe Germaine for two years and is still in the top 20 on the Ohio State career passing yardage list. 

And then there is 1997, a year that might have involved as much promise as any on this list but ended up yielding next to nothing for Ohio State. Cooper signed not one but two highly regarded prospects from California — Austin Moherman of Mission Viejo, and David Priestley of Cypress. 

Moherman began the ’99 season as the stater before yielding to an athletic left-hander named Steve Bellisari, who kept the job through most of three up-and-down seasons. Priestley, meanwhile, ended up at Pittsburgh, where he threw for over 4,000 yards. 


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