Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State to LSU in May 2018 and that decision changed the course of the two programs forever.
Burrow played for Ohio State from 2015 to 2017 as a backup quarterback. Burrow sat out his freshman season in 2015 and played as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and as a redshirt sophomore in 2017. Over the course of two seasons that he saw playing time at Ohio State, he appeared in a total of 10 games.
As a backup, he sat behind starting quarterback J.T. Barrett. While Burrow waited his turn, the quarterback room started to fill up with other talented arms. He had to compete with redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins in 2017 for the backup quarterback job. Haskins eventually won that job in 2017 and filled in for Barrett against Michigan in the final regular-season game.
Not only did Burrow compete with Haskins, but he had redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell waiting in the wings to eventually start in the future. In 2017, former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer had three legitimate quarterbacks on his roster that could have started once Barrett left.
After the 2017 season, it was clear that Burrow’s window to win the starting job was closing. In the 2018 spring camp, Haskins was viewed as the team’s starter and if Burrow remained at Ohio State, he was going to be the backup quarterback.
Burrow expedited his academic career and graduated from Ohio State in May 2018. He weighed his options and realized that it was in his best interest to leave Ohio State and immediately play somewhere else as a graduate transfer. Burrow transferred to LSU and played for the Tigers for two seasons.
By transferring to LSU, Burrow was able to make the most of his remaining two years of eligibility in college football. Obviously, Burrow parlayed his final year of eligibility in 2019 into a Heisman Trophy season and a College Football Playoff National Championship.
If Burrow never left Ohio State, he never would have won a Heisman or a national championship at LSU. What would have happened if Burrow stayed with the Buckeyes? Burrow would have sat behind Haskins for the 2018 season and he only would have had one season left to prove himself as an NFL prospect.
Once Haskins left after the 2018 season, Burrow would have competed with Martell for the starting job. In addition to competing with Martell, Burrow might have prevented former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields from transferring to Ohio State. Perhaps, Burrow’s presence would not have deterred Fields from coming to Ohio State and he would have unseated Burrow.
In reality, Fields transferred and received immediate eligibility to play for Ohio State. Fields caused Martell to transfer to the University of Miami before the 2019 season, while Burrow was entering his second season in Baton Rouge, La.
Burrow’s decision to transfer turned out to be the best decision of his collegiate career. It worked out for both sides as Haskins had an impressive 2018 campaign and Fields went on to lead Ohio State to a College Football Playoff appearance in 2019.