Yesterday, Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow announced his decision to leave the program and become a graduate transfer. There has been speculation for months that he might do that, and likewise there’s been speculation for about as long that Florida may end up his destination.
Here are the answers to the questions you might have about Burrow and what he could mean to UF.
Why another transfer quarterback?
Gator fans are about tired of quarterbacks and transfers at this point. In the last six years, three quarterbacks have transferred out — Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Will Grier — and been very successful at their destinations. Four quarterbacks have transferred in — Joshua Grady, Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby, Malik Zaire — and not been able to break the offensive curse.
UF does need to get off of the transfer quarterback treadmill at some point, but there is a case to be made for bringing in another one this year. The old saw that “if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks” is true more often than not, and, well, Florida has two quarterbacks in the running for the starting role.
There are real questions as to whether the light will ever turn on for Feleipe Franks, and Kyle Trask has proven nothing as he’s not ever played a snap in a college game. Emory Jones, for his part, appears to be someone who might get a package of plays this year but isn’t ready to be a starter.
If Florida can get a new quarterback who might be better than Franks and Trask and who won’t be around too long to interfere with Jones’s development, then why not? UF has a few open spots under the 85-scholarship cap, after all.
Why Joe Burrow?
First and foremost, he’s now available. For another, he’s spent three years and change under Urban Meyer.
Officially, Burrow worked under two different quarterback coaches and four different co-offensive coordinators. All of them were teaching Meyer’s brand of offense, however, which obviously is where Dan Mullen got his scheme from. Meyer’s and Mullen’s systems have diverged a little over the last nine years, but the basics are the same. It would be a much easier transition for Burrow than it’s been for the existing quarterbacks on the Florida roster.
Who is Joe Burrow?
The son of Ohio defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow, Joe Burrow was selected Ohio’s Mr. Football and was a 4-star (0.9003) recruit in the 247Sports Composite. Of his prolific high school stats, perhaps the most eye-popping is that he threw for 63 touchdowns with only two interceptions as a senior.
He redshirted his freshman year at OSU in 2015, which was the year in which J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones swapped as the starting quarterback throughout the season. He was Barrett’s backup in 2016 and began as such in 2017. However, he broke a bone in his throwing hand during 2017’s fall camp, something that ultimately led to him losing his spot in line to redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins.
Haskins, a former Composite 4-star (0.9561) recruit, starred in OSU’s comeback win over Michigan upon replacing an injured Barrett and was expected to be the leader this year. He didn’t put Burrow away, however, as Meyer did not name a starter after the spring game. That also means Burrow didn’t conclusively win the job either.
Without a guarantee that he’d start, Burrow took the opportunity to become a graduate transfer and play his final two years of eligibility elsewhere.
What kind of player is Burrow?
Burrow was listed as a dual threat quarterback coming out of high school, and he ran for over 2,000 yards to go with his more than 11,400 passing yards on that level.
You must go to his high school tape to see what he looks like carrying the ball. He shows good balance and some elusiveness, and he’s definitely faster than Trask. It’s hard for me to tell if he’s faster than Franks because Franks is a long strider who doesn’t look as fast as he is. I think Franks may be slightly faster once at full speed, but I think Burrow has better acceleration.
Throwing the ball, accuracy is Burrow’s calling card. Just consider again his 63 touchdowns to two interceptions as a high school senior. He completed 62% of his passes as a sophomore, 71% as a junior, and 72% as a senior. In mop-up time in college, he completed 78.6% (22/28) of his passes as a redshirt freshman and 63.6% (7/11) as a redshirt sophomore.
One thing that’s evident, though, is that he doesn’t have a big arm. Someone made up highlights for him in the 2017 spring game, and even in this collection of his best passes, you can see he underthrew two of his three deep balls. When seeing a different compilation from 2017 that interleaves him and Haskins, it’s extremely evident that Haskins has more arm strength. Franks definitely has more zip in his ball than Burrow does, and I’m reasonably sure Trask does too.
Would Burrow start?
Maybe. And the fact that the answer is “maybe” and not “no” is the reason why everyone is taking the prospect of him coming to UF seriously.
Mullen said this spring that the top trait he looks for in a quarterback is accuracy. It’s also well known that he prefers a mobile quarterback. I’ve been anticipating the decision between Franks and Trask as possibly revealing which truly is his priority. Trask seems to be more accurate with his passes, while Franks has more mobility.
Burrow can offer both traits. He’s been highly accurate over his career, and he’s more mobile than Trask is. He may not have the arm Franks or Trask does, but he might have enough.
The biggest question is whether Mullen wants to risk upheaval by bringing in a new quarterback. Team unity has been unusually high for a brand new coaching regime, as the only players to leave so far have been guys buried on the depth chart with no plausible path to major playing time. It’s always best when quarterbacks are team leaders, and Franks especially has emerged as such this year. There is always a chance in bringing in a new quarterback that it could hurt team chemistry and undercut the leadership of the existing players even if they hold off the new guy.
Mullen hasn’t sounded all that interested in bringing in a quarterback transfer at recent booster events, including one last night after the Burrow news went public. Part of him gently dismissing the possibility is that by rule he simply can’t talk about potential transfers by name, and part of it is that he doesn’t want to look like he lacks faith in the guys on campus should Burrow go somewhere else.
It’s a big decision for Mullen to make, and you can bet that people in the football offices are evaluating Burrow and what he would mean to the program. They wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they weren’t.
From what I can tell, Burrow would have a great chance to start if he came to Gainesville. If the staff agrees, it’ll be up to Mullen and Burrow to decide if it’s the right match for the coach, the player, and the team.