Former Kansas State QB Will Howard commits to Ohio State

Former Kansas State QB Will Howard commits to Ohio State – ESPN

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    Pete Thamel, ESPNJ4. January 2024, 6:42 p.m. ET

Former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard told ESPN that he has verbally committed to transferring to Ohio State, associating one of the portal's top quarterbacks with a high-performance target.

Howard led Kansas State to the Big 12 title in 2022 and gives the Buckeyes one of the most talented and experienced signal-callers available on the transfer market.

Howard went 12-5 as Kansas State's starter in 2022 and 2023 and led the Wildcats to a Big 12 title game win over TCU in 2022. Ohio State's staff evaluated all of the top quarterback quarterbacks and concluded with the belief that Howard was the best among them, as the staff valued his arm strength, experience and dual-threat ability.

He will be a fifth-year senior with one year of eligibility remaining, and he will be the favorite to start at Ohio State in 2024. He chose Ohio State after attending both Miami and USC. He also seriously considered going to the NFL. He visited Ohio State this week and is expected to graduate Thursday evening.

“I’m glad I took my time with this decision,” Howard told ESPN. “It taught me a lot about myself and college football in general. It was a great process. I’m really glad I ultimately chose Ohio State.”

“I knew if I missed that, I would regret passing up the opportunity to be a quarterback at Ohio State. I knew I would be upset with myself if I missed this opportunity.”

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In his career, Howard has started 27 games, thrown for 48 touchdowns and 5,786 yards, and passed for 19 additional touchdowns. Howard brings a dual-threat element as he has 921 career rushing yards.

Howard's best statistical season was 2023, when he completed 61.3% of his passes and finished the year with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Opposing coaches continually praised his development, allowing him to develop into a polished passer and earn second-team All-Big-12 honors in 2023.

There were several moves to Ohio State. Howard emphasized that he enjoyed getting to know both Miami offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and USC coach Lincoln Riley. Ultimately, however, he determined that Ohio State was the most ready to compete for a national title right away.

“When I started talking to Ohio State, everything was kind of right,” Howard said. “I had a list of things I was looking for, which was that I needed to go somewhere where there was a lot of talent around me and where I could compete for a national championship.”

Howard also has individual targets, as he said the feedback he's received from the NFL has him projecting somewhere between the late second round and fourth round.

According to sources, Howard received a coveted invitation to the Senior Bowl this week. But he realizes a big-win season at Ohio State would greatly help his draft stock.

“My goal is to win a national championship,” he said. “Ultimately, I want to be a starting quarterback in the NFL… I think the best place to stay as a quarterback in the NFL is as a first or second round pick in the NFL Draft.” Going to Ohio State gives me a chance to take a leap and get into that conversation.”

That's where Ohio State's program proved attractive, as coach Ryan Day has coached three first-round picks at quarterback since 2019, including current Rookie of the Year favorite CJ Stroud.

“When I talked to Coach Day about the program, I was excited,” Howard said, emphasizing the appeal of the pro concepts in Ohio State’s offense. “Kansas State is very professional and prepares you better for the pros than most programs in the country. I didn’t want to lose any of that momentum.”

“When Coach Day and I met and went over the program, I was a total football nerd and talked all day. In this way we got along well. I knew this was the system that would best prepare me for this level.”

Howard said when he left Kansas State, he was initially really unsure about whether or not he would declare for the NFL draft. He enjoyed his experience at Kansas State and said it was surreal watching the Wildcats play in the Pop Tart Bowl on television. (He said a FaceTime group with a handful of former teammates made that easier.)

“Kansas State was everything I could have wanted in a college experience,” he said. “When I started playing as a complete freshman, I didn’t know what I was doing out there. It was the COVID year. I was thrown into the fire and was unsure of myself.”

He ended up leading the team to the Big 12 title last season after taking over the starting job and defeating TCU in the Big 12 Championship. He then led Kansas State to an 8-4 season in 2023. That included an overtime loss to Texas and a 61-yard field goal against Missouri.

He said he remained close to Kansas State coach Chris Klieman, with whom he consulted throughout the transfer process.

“All the experiences and things I had to go through there, the hard times and the great times and the relationships, that made me who I am today,” he said, summing up his experiences at Kansas State. “I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Howard knows he's coming to Ohio State at a stressful time, as the Buckeyes started the last two seasons 0-11 but lost to Michigan both years. Last year, Ohio State lost to Georgia in the final seconds of a College Football Playoff thriller. That year, the Buckeyes lost 14-3 to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. They have lost three straight to Michigan.

He quickly embraced the passion for the rivalry, and when a reporter asked him about Michigan, he quickly interjected, “You mean Team Up North.” He laughed, “They won't say that M-word. I guess I won’t say it either.”

He acknowledged the pressure cooker he's entering because the Buckeyes enter 2024 on a two-game losing streak and beating Michigan will be more of a challenge.

“We’ve definitely talked about it,” he said. “This game means so much. The pressure is great. Beating Team Up North is our top priority on the road to the national championship and all of our other goals. That’s huge and it’s everything when it comes to playing for Ohio State.”

“I know the impact and what it means to the fan base and everyone in the program. This is Team Up North now.”