When a quarterback takes the snap and drops back, he needs to progress through his reads before taking off, and that’s exactly what Will Howard did after deciding to leave Kansas State and enter the transfer portal.
The portal is a different kind of pocket but it still requires patience, and Howard stood in there weighing his options just about as long as he could before finally pulling the trigger. It was about six weeks from the time he entered the portal until he finally committed to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes were a program that Howard circled early on in the process. The opportunity to work with Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was a major draw, and the recent hiring of Bill O’Brien to be OSU’s offensive coordinator became an added bonus after the fact.
“Man, there were a lot of reasons why but when I got to the end it was more why not? I just felt like this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up on,” Howard said Tuesday in his first interview session as a Buckeye. “I thought I had a really good relationship with Coach Day. Thought he was a really good guy, and obviously didn’t know about the Coach O’Brien news, but that fires me up too. There was just so many different things that went into this decision. It was a long, weird journey in the portal, but I couldn’t be happier or more blessed to be here.”
As Howard remained patient, there were times when it felt rushed. Teams were pressing him for a commitment, but he evaded the rush and stepped up into the pocket to buy himself more time.
And then Ohio State broke open.
“I knew they wanted to wait until after the Cotton Bowl to do anything,” Howard said of OSU. “So I was patient and I knew that going up to Ohio State and playing quarterback here would be a huge honor and an opportunity that would be hard to pass up.”
As the process went on, Howard was obviously weighing his choices. There were other schools that wanted him, and as a four-year player at Kansas State, there was also the option of heading to the NFL Draft. The feedback that Howard received from the NFL had him slated somewhere between the third and sixth round of the 2024 NFL Draft. And in the final week of his decision-making process, he received a Senior Bowl invitation.
“There were a lot of different options for me on the table, and I thought they were all really good options. I didn’t think any of them were as good as this one. And this is the one that I kind of had circled in the back of my mind,” Howard said.
“I just felt like I had the opportunity and I felt like my talent level didn’t really match where my stock was. And I felt like I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try and bump that up and go somewhere to compete for national championships.”
In his evaluation from the NFL, he was told that the league just wants to see more of him. He’s gotten starts all four of his years, but he’s only been a full-time starter one year. And in those four years, he wasn’t ever really asked to throw the ball around as much as a quarterback would like.
Having watched the rookie season that former Buckeye quarterback CJ Stroud just had with the Houston Texans, it would be easy for any quarterback to want that same kind of background. Playing in Ohio State’s offense is an exciting possibility for Howard.
“The things that Coach Day does in his offense and that Coach O’Brien does, I feel like really fit my my type of build, my type of player,” he said. “Where I was coming from at K-State, it was a very run-heavy offense, especially quarterback run heavy, which I was very happy to do and didn’t mind doing at all. I’m excited here to be where I feel like I can be that pocket passer and also use my legs when I need to. But I feel like my strength is in my arm. But I also feel like I can do really good things with my legs, and obviously being a quarterback you need to make those plays when you need them.”
The opportunity to play in a quarterback-friendly offense and raise his draft stock were near the top of the list of reasons why Will Howard wanted to be a Buckeye, but the No. 1 reason why he came to Ohio State is exactly what a coach wants to hear from a quarterback.
“The biggest thing was I felt like I could come compete here to win a national championship, and that above anything else was one of the most important things,” he said. “I felt like I just had more I wanted to accomplish in college and I wasn’t done yet. And that was I think what really drew me here. Obviously getting to the next level and playing in an offense like this I think is really going to prepare me for that next level and give me the best shot, and that’s all just really sugar on the cake for me.”