It wasn’t the type of I’m Coming Home announcement that shocked the world much like LeBron James’ did back in 2014, but Gunnar Hoak’s version of I’m Coming Home is some very important news for the Ohio State Buckeyes.1
In what has been a whirlwind of an offseason for Ohio State’s quarterback room, head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes seem to have gotten bailed out Saturday night, at least a little bit. Kentucky quarterback Gunnar Hoak has announced that he has transferred to Ohio State, returning home to Columbus.
Co❌ing ho❌e!! 🏈 pic.twitter.com/XsGbsskISL
— Gunnar Hoak (@GunnarHoak12) April 28, 2019
He may not have ever had the starting job with the Wildcats, but Hoak was one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the transfer portal, especially this late in the process. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound gunslinger appeared in five games for the Wildcats last season, completing 13-for-26 for 167 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Prior to announcing his transfer from Kentucky, Hoak was competing for the starting quarterback job with 2018 starter Terry Wilson.
A Dublin Coffman graduate, Hoak not only grew up in Columbus, but his father (Frank Hoak), uncle (Fred Pagac) and cousin (Fred Pagac Jr.) all played football for the Buckeyes. Frank played for Earle Bruce, Fred played for Woody Hayes and was an assistant with the Buckeyes from 1978-2000, and Fred played for Ohio State from 1999-2003. Hoak may not have received an offer from Ohio State in high school, but the Dublin native has finally gotten an opportunity to play for his dream school, even if it is a few years later than he originally wanted.
Ohio State’s quarterback room has seen quite a bit of turnover since Justin Fields transferred to the scarlet and gray the first week of January. Not only did Dwayne Haskins forego his final years of eligibility to enter this weekend’s NFL Draft, but Tate Martell transferred to Miami, Matthew Baldwin is set to transfer, and former commit Dwan Mathis flipped to Georgia on National Signing Day.2 With Hoak set to graduate this semester, he not only has two more years of eligibility, but he will be immediately eligible due to him being a graduate transfer, something that was vitally important for the Buckeyes given Baldwin’s departure.
It may seem obvious that Fields didn’t transfer to Ohio State to be a backup quarterback, but he isn’t going to just be given the starting quarterback job either. All spring, Day preached that Fields and Baldwin were competing for the No. 1 spot. Hoak will get that same opportunity. At the very least, the competition all summer and throughout fall camp will make each quarterback better. Even if Fields does in fact land the starting job, Hoak will need to be ready to take the spotlight every day and every game. If Fields stays healthy, the backup quarterback won’t see the field much unless it’s in a blowout. But, like recent years have proven, the backup quarterback spot is a vital part of the team. That’s why the depth or lack thereof was such serious issue heading into the summer, one that Day and his staff had to address sooner rather than later.
While there isn’t a single quarterback on the current roster that was with the Buckeyes in 2018, Ohio State is in a much better position now than they were a little less than two weeks ago, when Baldwin announced that he will transfer from the program. Hoak is a solid quarterback with plenty of experience. Him being from Columbus is just an added bonus.
Prior to this weekend, Ohio State had just two quarterbacks on scholarship and only three on their roster: Fields, graduate transfer Chris Chugunov, and walk-on Danny Vanatsky. Not only did the Buckeyes add Hoak Saturday night, but they also got a commitment from three-star pro-style quarterback JP Andrade Friday night as well. It gives them five quarterbacks and plenty of depth at the position, something that they needed badly. Day has repeatedly stated that he wanted to have four scholarship quarterbacks and that Ohio State would be in the mix for a graduate transfer quarterback, but Baldwin’s pending transfer left the Buckeyes even more shorthanded than what he originally anticipated. Depth at quarterback wasn’t just something that Day and the Buckeyes wanted, but it became an immediate and alarming necessity.
Although Andrade didn’t have a Power Five offer and only a preferred walk-on offer from Florida, he is rated the No. 57 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class by 247Sports. At Bonita High School in California, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder passed for a school-record 9,423 passing yards and 82 touchdowns and he set records for single-game completions, single-game passings yards, single-season completion percentage, single-season passing yards, single-season completions, single-season passing touchdowns and more.3
Hoak may not be the catchy, big-time name that the Buckeyes are used to as their backup quarterback,4 but a depth chart that features Fields and Hoak at quarterback isn’t anything to be ashamed of. The former Kentucky quarterback coming home and joining the Buckeyes was not only much needed, but puts Ohio State’s quarterbacks in a solid position ahead of the 2019 season.