Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow, who lost out to redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins in the race to replace J.T. Barrett in Columbus, is reportedly planning to visit Carolina this week.
The announcement of his intention to transfer two weeks ago sparked heated debate on the Tar Heel Blog Slack channel, and my take was and remains simple:
Sitting behind the most prolific passer in a school’s history for three years is not a knock on a player. I think he would be the best quarterback on campus the minute he arrived on campus.
My colleague Jake Lawrence believes the answers to the QB question are already there, and I respectfully disagree. That’s a post for another day.
Early indications were that the Ohio native, ranked 7th among pro-style passers by 247 in the 2015 class, had a list of Nebraska, LSU, Florida, Cincinnati, and Ohio (as he hails from Athens, OH). He has since visited Cincinnati and LSU. Cincinnati, of course, is coached by former Ohio State staffer Luke Fickell, who was instrumental in bringing him to Columbus. LSU is LSU, in perpetual quarterbacking purgatory.
As recently as last night, Burrow was thought to be choosing between the Bearcats and the Tigers, but it appears the Heels are jumping into the mix after all:
Ohio State grad transfer QB Joe Burrow has visited both Cincinnati and LSU this past week. Look for his third and final visit this week to be to North Carolina. I expect an announcement by possibly the end of this week from Burrow.— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) May 15, 2018
There’s a lot to unpack here.
One, Carolina emerged from nowhere to get the visit for Burrow. The Heels’ connections probably helped: #2 overall draft pick Mitch Trubisky, like Burrow, is an Ohio native so Burrow likely knows his story. Antonio Williams, who transferred from Ohio State to UNC last month, was backfield mates with Burrow on the third team in Columbus for two years.
Two, Carolina is the final visit. There hasn’t been any solid information regarding Burrow’s trips to Cincinnati and LSU, so Carolina’s late emergence could indicate that he’s doing his due diligence...or that he came away underwhelmed enough at both institutions to expand his list.
Three, Larry Fedora and staff’s interest may indicate how they feel about the quarterback situation after the spring. Burrow’s presence would effectively end Nathan Elliott’s tenure as an on-field quarterback for the Heels, as both are redshirt juniors. Chazz Surratt would be a senior when Burrow exhausts his eligibility. Unlike the Brandon Harris situation last year, where the Heels were left scrambling after the (let’s call it) unexpected departures of Caleb Henderson and Trubisky, the Heels are not looking for experience behind center— if they’re looking to add a QB, they’re looking for talent.
Assuming the Heels don’t have another crippling injury crisis on their hands this year, quarterback is the biggest question mark heading into the season. Again, unlike Harris, Burrow would not be learning a completely unique system— Ohio State runs a more run-centric, but nonetheless similarly-constructed, version of the spread. It’s based, like Carolina’s, on changing tempo, run-pass option, and quick decisions from the pocket. The inevitable (and unfair) Harris comparison doesn’t hold water, as Harris was stuck in Cam Cameron’s hilariously 1990’s under center, two-tight, power-I/play action offense.
Here are his highlights from the 2017 OSU spring game. Aside from the obvious “SPRING GAME” caveat, Burrow looks like a poised, collected passer who quickly processes what’s going on and is not unwilling to check down quickly.
Two quarterbacks, one of whom was Burrow as a redshirt freshman in 2016, had the following stat lines in mop-up duty:
Player A: 22/28 (78.6%), 226 yards (8.1 YPA), 2 TD, 0 INT
Player B: 40/47 (85.1%), 555 yards (11.8 YPA), 6 TD, 0 INT
Player A is Burrow.
Player B? Mitch Trubisky.
Hell, they both even wear #10.
Obviously, Trubisky has the larger sample-- but it was also his second year of back-up duty. Burrow only threw 8 passes in 2017 as he was displaced by Haskins. If Burrow can do even 70% of what Trubisky could do in his fourth year in college, there is absolutely no downside to bringing him in. The absolute worst-case scenario is that he, like Harris, is inexplicably unable to learn the offense and serves as a third QB in 2018— at least allowing Jace Ruder and Cade Fortin to redshirt.
The best case? Burrow raises the upside on the 2018 Heels’ prognosis from “hoping for bowl berth” to “right there with Miami and Virginia Tech in the Coastal.”
I hope Burrow enjoys his trip to Chapel Hill immensely, and signs with the good guys. He could be a game-changer for the 2018 season.