Hayes: Tristan Gebbia provides Ohio State QB room with knowledge -- and is the ultimate insurance policy
He was the most undersold transfer portal acquisition.
He could be the most important.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tristan Gebbia. He’s 3rd or 4th on the Ohio State depth chart, and he knows it.
He also knows that could change.
“It’s a unique role that Tristan’s willing to take on,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said last week at his post-Signing Day press conference.
Day likes 4 quarterbacks in his rotation. Not a couple of scholarship guys and a couple of walk-ons — 4 scholarship quarterbacks.
He has in the past added veteran quarterbacks from the portal who have made it clear they want to coach, and their final season of college football more closely resembles a graduate assistant helping coach the position.
Gebbia, who has played at Nebraska and most recently Oregon State, fits the profile. He’s not going to threaten the competition for starting quarterback, which begins in the 1st week of March during spring practice.
That’s redshirt sophomore Kyle McCord vs. redshirt freshman Devin Brown, and Day says he’d like to name a starter at the end of spring practice because that’s part of a process that has become so successful with previous Ohio State quarterbacks.
Hear that again: Day wants to name a starter at the end of spring practice.
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And what of the loser of the competition?
Does he stay — or does he enter the spring transfer portal on May 1?
While Day didn’t specifically address that possibility, how could it not be a factor? In this age of quarterback movement, of blue-chip stars not interested in waiting and searching for a landing spot, McCord or Brown could most certainly leave.
If McCord wins the job, Brown could stay and hope that after 1 big season (again, odds are the starting Ohio State quarterback will be an NFL prospect), McCord leaves early for the NFL and he inherits the job after 2 years of waiting.
If Brown wins the job, McCord almost certainly would leave.
Why would he stay where the starter is younger, when he can move to another Power 5 school and start?
Then there’s the elephant in the room: Ohio State isn’t going to stop recruiting the position.
It is here where Gebbia enters the picture.
If 1 of the 2 competing for the starting job leaves, Day still has an experienced backup (Gebbia) and an incoming 4-star freshman (Lincoln Kienholz) in the quarterback room — just in case the unthinkable happens.
Ohio State has 1 of the top 5 talented teams in the nation and will again be a favorite to reach the Playoff. The last thing Day needs is a temporary injury to his starting quarterback scuttling a Playoff run.
Outside of Gebbia, only McCord has taken a snap in a game. Brown was a top-50 recruit, according to the 247Sports composite, and Kienholz is a project who won’t arrive in Columbus until June.
Because of the uncertainty of who could leave if a starter is named after spring practice, Day almost had to add a veteran quarterback from the portal. Frankly, he’s playing it perfectly.
He’s bringing in a strong voice and mind with Gebbia, who signed with Nebraska in 2017, has 200 career attempts and a TD-to-INT ratio of 5-to-4. He’s not a threat to anyone in the quarterback room, and the storyline coming in is understood by all: Gebbia, a team captain at Oregon State in 2022, is there to begin his coaching career.
In a perfect world, that’s all that happens. But if Ohio State loses 1 of its 2 top quarterbacks, Gebbia no longer is a glorified graduate assistant.
He’s a legitimate backup, and more than likely the top backup until Kienholz figures it out. In other words, he’s 1 injury away from taking control of the most successful offense in college football over the past 6 seasons.
Gebbia was a 4-star recruit in high school, the No. 200-ranked player by 247Sports composite who had offers from a handful of SEC schools, including Alabama. He won’t be intimidated by anything in Columbus.
“He’s played football, and he has been in rivalry games,” Day said. “He has played more football than anybody in our room.”
Day says he likes a culture similar to what plays out in an NFL quarterback room, where an older veteran typically helps tutor a young star. It’s hard to argue with the results.
In non-COVID seasons, Day’s quarterbacks as offensive coordinator and head coach have thrown 39, 51, 48, 46 and 42 touchdown passes. That’s 226 touchdown passes in 5 seasons, or 45 per season.
McCord is the favorite to win the starting job, but Brown was impressive in 2022 while redshirting and running the scout team. One will win the job, 1 could easily take NIL cash and play for numerous Power 5 teams still looking to secure the most important position on the field (hello, Florida and Auburn).
And 1 (Gebbia) is there in case the unthinkable happens.