CHICAGO — Urban Meyer said that Joe Burrow was “right there.”
According to the Ohio State coach, Burrow did just about everything he could to win the starting job at the end of spring camp.
Ultimately, though, the redshirt junior decided that his path to finally start in Columbus was blocked by Dwayne Haskins. A couple weeks later, LSU announced that the graduate transfer would spend his final 2 years of eligibility in Baton Rouge.
And now, Meyer and the Buckeyes are left wondering if Burrow will be the one that got away.
“Do I wish he was still with us? I do,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days. “I love Joe Burrow. I love his family and have great respect for him. And that’s not going to stop. That relationship will continue for many years.”
But Meyer’s on-field relationship with Burrow is over. The Buckeyes are putting all of their eggs in Haskins’ basket while the Tigers are presumably putting all of their eggs in Burrow’s basket.
So how does Ohio State feel about losing Burrow to the Bayou?
Well, the Buckeyes offered up some encouraging words for an LSU fan base that’s desperate for a game-changer at quarterback.
I talked to Meyer and each of Ohio State’s player representatives about someone who has quickly become one of the most intriguing quarterbacks in college football. To be clear, Burrow is still a mystery. There’s no telling how he’s going to handle a starting job (I’m assuming he’s the guy because gambling sites like Bet DSI actually took LSU’s starting quarterback odds off the table after Burrow was getting too much action).
Ohio State didn’t talk about Burrow like he was just another backup. It almost felt like it was still sort of painful to see him not in that locker room anymore. That’s all the more reason for LSU to be optimistic about his future.
“Believe me when I say this because he was my roommate for two years,” Ohio State defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones said, “you’re getting a dog in Joe. Joe’s no slouch. He’s a leader. He’s gonna take over that huddle.”
Like Jones, Ohio State offensive lineman Isaiah Prince was close with Burrow. They were all part of Ohio State’s 2015 class, so they know Burrow on and off the field as well as anyone. They saw the development Burrow had to go through just to rise up the Buckeyes’ loaded quarterback depth chart.
“He’s a determined hard worker, very smart. Just me knowing Joe, he’s gonna do what it takes to win,” said Prince, who said he plans on catching as many LSU games as he can. “He’s a baller. He’s gonna make the necessary throws and the necessary reads. I know how Joe works and I think they’re extremely blessed to have a player like Joe.”
The work ethic attribute seemed to always pop up when talking about Burrow. By now, everyone knows that he’s the son of Ohio defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow and the brother of 2 former Nebraska players.
Ohio State defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones
Understanding defensive schemes or reading coverages has never been an issue for Ohio’s 2014 Mr. Football. Perhaps that’s why his high school numbers were off the charts (11,400 passing yards with 157 touchdowns and 2,000 rushing yards and 27 TDs).
But Burrow’s stock at Ohio State didn’t just rise because he was a high school superstar. There were tweaks to be made after he got to Columbus. The way Meyer described the player Burrow is today made him sound like he’s somewhere between the strong-armed Haskins and the crafty J.T. Barrett.
“Joe Burrow was a made player,” Meyer said. “He came in and had a lot of work to do and he did it. He knows that, I know that. He’s ready to go play college football. He’s ready to go play. He’s earned that right. That’s why I think LSU fans should be very excited. He’s got a lot of tools. The most important tool is competitive spirit and toughness and that he can get the ball out. He’s worked so hard on his release and arm strength.
“He’s mobile enough to keep them honest. He’s certainly not a J.T. (Barrett), but he can run. He’s a leader.”
As strange as it sounds, had Meyer said something to the effect of “he’s exactly like J.T. Barrett,” LSU fans probably would have groaned. As impressive as Barrett’s career was — he had the most touchdowns and offensive yards in Big Ten history — a quarterback who can’t stretch the field vertically won’t get the Tigers any closer to beating Alabama and getting back to an SEC Championship. Ed Orgeron basically admitted at SEC Media Days that LSU was some quality quarterback play from taking down the Tide.
There’s reason to believe that Burrow can stretch the field better than Barrett or his LSU predecessor, Danny Etling (another former Big Ten-to-SEC transfer). Burrow’s spring game performance showed off the improved release and arm strength that Meyer referenced.
The final pass that Burrow threw in Ohio Stadium came on an untimed down at the end of the Buckeyes’ 2018 spring game. Meyer wanted to see one more deep ball from Burrow, so they drew up a go route for Buckeye speedster Demario McCall out of the slot. Burrow then calmly looked off the safety and delivered a 48-yard strike to an in-stride McCall as he crossed the pylon.
Ohio State fans wondered that day if that was the last they would get to see from the backup quarterback who they grew to appreciate. They got their answer shortly thereafter when Burrow announced that he would indeed seek a graduate transfer, and ultimately, LSU would become his new home.
Soon, both fan bases will have an answer to a question that’s been written about all offseason.
What’s the next chapter in Burrow’s story?
“LSU fans should be excited because they’re getting a warrior. A true warrior,” Ohio State receiver Parris Campbell said. “Many people didn’t get to see Joe before at the highest level, but we’ve seen Joe go to work every single day. He’s a guy who didn’t say a whole lot, but is just a down and dirty competitor. Just a warrior.
“He’s gonna have a successful season at LSU. There’s no doubt about it.”