COLUMBUS, Ohio – When the 130th season of Ohio State football kicks off on Aug. 31 against Florida Atlantic, one thing is for certain: the quarterback taking the first snap for the Buckeyes will be doing it for the first time as a starter.
Ohio State enters 2019 with a quarterback room that looks drastically different than it did a year ago at this time. Only two players in the room – Chris Chugunov, a graduate transfer who spent two seasons at West Virginia and Danny Vanatsky, a sophomore from Cincinnati – were with the program last year. And that includes the position coach, Mike Yurcich, who was hired in January after leading some of the nation’s most explosive offenses at Oklahoma State. But what the group lacks in starting experience it more than makes up for in talent and potential.
The Buckeyes currently have five quarterbacks on the 110-man training camp roster:
• Chris Chugunov – The most veteran member of the quarterback room, Chugunov arrived on campus at the end of camp last August after spending three seasons at West Virginia. He started two games for the Mountaineers in 2017 – at Oklahoma State and vs. Texas – and has completed 45 of 95 career passes for 551 yards and three touchdowns. He is a fifth-year senior.
• Justin Fields – A member of the all-SEC Freshman Team during his one season at Georgia, Fields was the No. 2 overall ranted player in the 2018 recruiting class and appeared in 12 of 14 games last year for the Bulldogs. He completed 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards and four TDs while also rushing for four touchdowns. He is a true sophomore.
• Gunnar Hoak – Hoak is a Dublin native who starred locally at Coffman High School, graduated from the University of Kentucky last May and has two years of eligibility for the Buckeyes. Hoak played in four games last year for the Wildcats, completing 13 of 26 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
• Jagger LaRoe – LaRoe joined the program in June following a redshirt season at Texas A&M in 2018. He played his high school football at Colleyville Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas where he throw for over 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.
• Danny Vanatsky – A true sophomore, Vanatsky helped run the scout team offense last year. In his high school career at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, he tossed 72 touchdown passes with just 14 interceptions.
Once classes begin on Aug. 20, the Buckeyes will also have the services of freshman quarterback JP Andrade, a native of La Verne, Calif., and Bonita High School.
“We want to get three quarterbacks ready to be able to play in a game because you just don’t know what’s going to happen,” head coach Ryan Day said following the team’s first practice last Friday. “Crazy things happen. You like to think everyone is going to stay healthy. The reality of it is, you look at the numbers around the country, that doesn’t happen. So you have to get people ready. As it goes, guys start to step up, declare themselves in certain positions, then we’ll go from there.”
Good Quarterback Play
If anything is certain, it’s that quarterbacks coached by Day have performed at a high level, with JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins as the latest examples. Both won Big Ten Quarterback of the Year honors under Day.
In 2017, Barrett had the best statistical season of his career, including a 35 touchdown passes, which at the time was a single-season record. That mark, however, wouldn’t last long, as Haskins came along in 2018 and completely rewrote the record book, tossing 50 TD passes – an Ohio State and Big Ten record.
Under Day’s tutelage, Ohio State’s 90 touchdown passes since the start of the 2017 season is tied for most in the country and its .682 completion percentage is third best. Overall, Ohio State ranks in the top 10 in the following categories since Day’s arrival:
• Touchdown passes (1st, 90)
• Completion percentage (3rd, .682)
• Yards per game (7th, 313.5)
• Yards per attempt (9th, 8.77)
• Touchdown percentage (3rd, 9.0 percent)
Yurcich’s Offenses at Oklahoma State
Euclid, Ohio native Mike Yurcich will serve as the team’s quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator this year and arrives after coordinating some of the nation’s best offenses at Oklahoma State. During his six-year tenure, the Cowboys averaged 38.0 points per game and 478.3 yards per game while scoring 40 or more points 35 times. They ranked fifth nationally in passing yards per game (315.9), 11th in touchdown passes (179), seventh in total yards (478.6) and sixth in scoring (38.0) from 2013 through 2018.
Yurchich’s pervious coaching stops were at Shippensburg University (offensive coordinator, 2011-12), Edinboro (offensive coordinator and QBs/WRs, 2005-10), Indiana (graduate assistant, 2003-04) and St. Francis Ind. (RBs/QBs and offensive coordinator 1999-2002).
Quarterbacks By The Numbers
3 – No. of years on staff for offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Ohio State has averaged 506.0 and 535.6 yards of offense per game, respectively, in Wilson’s first two seasons with the program. Twice he’s been on an offensive staff – at Oklahoma and Indiana – that has produced a 3,500-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and a 1,000-yard receiver in the same year.
0 – Career starts at Ohio State amongst the quarterbacks on the Buckeyes’ 2019 roster.
160 – Career pass attempts by Justin Fields, Gunnar Hoak and Chris Chugunov.
2 – College graduates. Chugunov earned his degree from West Virginia in finance while Hoak’s came in agricultural economics from Kentucky.
8,779 – Total passing yards by Ohio State quarterbacks under Ryan Day since the start of the 2017 season, the most in a two-year period in school history.
15 – Times that a Mike Yurcich-led offense scored 50 or more points at Oklahoma State.
5.00 – Ohio State’s touchdown to interception ratio in the last two years under Ryan Day, third best in the country.