The Ohio State Buckeyes have been in search of a graduate transfer quarterback to add to their roster prior to the 2019 season kicking off ever since the offseason began. Head coach Ryan Day hasn’t been shy about saying exactly that. He knows that having three quarterbacks who are on scholarship is important. With backup quarterback Matthew Baldwin — a redshirt freshman that was fighting for the starting job — set to transfer from the Buckeyes, nabbing a quarterback off the graduate transfer market is now not just something that Day and the Buckeyes want, but an absolute necessity and need ahead of fall camp.
As it currently stands, Ohio State has just three quarterbacks on its roster: Justin Fields, graduate transfer Chris Chugunov, and walk-on Danny Vanatsky. Fields has the starting job locked up, especially now that Baldwin will no longer be a Buckeye, but the other two? Well, Chugunov has just two starts under his belt during his time at West Virginia and Vanatsky has no experience whatsoever. The latter two were supposed to be names thrown in there for depth in the quarterback room, now they are considered the second- and third-string quarterbacks on a potential top-10 team in college football in 2019. That, among other things, is obviously a problem.
If Fields stays healthy, the quarterback depth or lack thereof isn’t much of an issue. But, like recent years have proven, the backup quarterback spot is a vital part of the team. That’s why this is such a serious issue heading into the summer, one that Day and his staff must address sooner rather than later.
Although it’s already late April, let’s take a look at some quarterbacks the Buckeyes could target on the graduate transfer market, ones that will be immediately eligible to play. While Ohio State is a place that many college football players would love to play at, a problem Day and company will now run into this late in the process is the fact that most graduate transfers want to transfer from their current program so that they can be a starting quarterback during their final year of eligibility. Obviously, while the Buckeyes backup will be one play away from being the starter and will likely get playing time in a number of games throughout the season, a transfer would not get the starting nod.
So let’s take a look at some potential graduate transfer quarterbacks the Buckeyes could consider:
Set to graduate this semester, the redshirt sophomore appeared in four games for the Wildcats last season, completing 13-for-26 for 167 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. In Kentucky’s spring game last weekend, the former three-star prospect completed 14-of-25 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
With two years of eligibility remaining along with graduating prior to the fall, he will be immediately eligible in 2019, which is quite a big plus for wherever he decides to transfer to.
Given that he’s from Dublin Coffman, about 20 minutes away from Ohio State’s campus, along with the fact that Hoak’s father (Frank Hoak), uncle (Fred Pagac) and cousin (Fred Pagac Jr.) all played football for the Buckeyes, Gunnar seems like the most obvious fit. The only problem is that if he leaves Kentucky for his final two years of eligibility, WFNY has been told that it will be for a starting job, not to be a backup again. Then again, things could change. If he does want a starting job, it makes him transferring to Ohio State seem very unlikely this summer, even with all those connections and growing up very close to campus.
One of the biggest names on the graduate transfer market and arguably the most talented and experienced quarterbacks in the transfer portal, Francis was quite a disappointment during his time at Florida State. During his three seasons as a Seminole, the former four-star prospect combined to complete 481-of-829 passes for 6,291 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. He also ran for 205 yards and eight touchdowns.
After battling a number of injuries during his time at Florida State, Seminoles head coach Wille Taggart dismissed him from the team on the same day his ex-girlfriend made an abuse allegation against him.
Before being a backup quarterback for the Redhawks in 2018, Malzone spent two seasons at Michigan, where he began his college career. Having totaled only four pass attempts in four seasons and without a single completion, the former four-star prospect doesn’t have much playing experience, even with a MAC school. He may not be Ohio State’s top choice, but if their options become minimal, they could look to Malzone to add to their depth behind Fields.
After joining the Red Raiders as a preferred walk-on in 2016, Garrett has completed only one pass (a 44-yard touchdown) during his four games in his college career to date. While he has two years of eligibility remaining, Garrett, like Malzone, is one of the least experienced quarterbacks on the list.
Although he was named the starting quarterback for the Red Raiders last fall, after suffering an ankle injury, he was forced to be the backup quarterback in 2018. The former three-star prospect completed 51-of-97 passes for 677 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions during two seasons with Texas Tech.
More of a runner than a passer, at least during his three years at USC, Fink ran for 106 yards on 14 carries while completing 13-of-18 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. The former three-star quarterback no longer wants to be a Trojan due to the implementation of former gunslinger Graham Harrell’s air-raid offense.
Like the two Texas Tech quarterbacks listed above, there’s a reason why there are three Big 12 quarterbacks on this list. It’s due to Ohio State quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich. Before joining Day’s staff this offseason, Yurcich was Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2013-18. This connection seems even more obvious given that the coach recruited (and coached) Wudtee during his time with the Cowboys.
The only quarterback on the list that would have to sit out the 2019 season, it’s unlikely that he would be the Buckeyes’ top choice given that they need a legitimate backup quarterback this upcoming season. With that said, if they find a graduate transfer, Ohio State could potentially add Wudtee as well. Then again, the quarterback stated that he wants to transfer from Oklahoma State due to a family medical situation. Given that he is a Louisiana native, it’s likely that he will transfer to somewhere much closer to home.
A former three-star prospect, he combined to 3-of-8 passes for 33 yards and a touchdown during his two years at Oklahoma State. Wudtee also ran for 110 yards on 15 carries.
In four years with the Nittany Lions, Stevens has combined to complete 24-of-41 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns (one interception), while also totaling 76 carries for 506 yards and 14 catches for 62 yards as well. The former three-star prospect now seems to want to be in the spotlight during his final year of eligibility.
While his familiarity with the Big Ten makes Stevens seem like an obvious fit here, that seems to be the reason why he won’t transfer to Ohio State. It would be quite a longshot for him to transfer to another Big Ten school or even transfer to somewhere that he would be a backup quarterback.
He might be even more of a longshot than Stevens, but the thought of Hornibrook joining the Buckeyes for his final year of eligibility is still fun, to say the least. During his four years as a Badger, the lefty completed 426-of-704 passes for 5,438 yards, 47 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions.
Let’s be honest, there’s no way Hornibrook transfers somewhere to be a backup for his final year of eligibility, let alone to another conference foe. One can dream, right?