Whitmer quarterback Riley Keller currently holds two offers, but the sophomore is on Ohio State's radar in the class of 2020. THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
COLUMBUS — Riley Keller is a mere three games into his sophomore season, but Ohio’s lone Power Five football program is watching intently.
Ohio State has not offered a scholarship to Whitmer’s standout quarterback, but the courtship stage already has begun. Keller competed at Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights camp earlier this summer, and he was a guest last week for the Buckeyes’ home game against Oklahoma.
Keller, who already has two Division I offers, had his first taste of an Ohio State game last week.
“The whole atmosphere was ridiculous,” Keller said. “It was a new experience for me. The way Ohio State does things, I’ve never really seen anything like it. I’ve been to Steelers games, but it’s just different down there.”
Currently, Keller has offers from Mississippi and Toledo, with many more likely to follow.
Though Keller is early in his high school career, he said he’s interested in what Ohio State can offer.
“I could see them being [at the] top, especially being in Ohio, being close to family and just the school I grew up in at Whitmer,” Keller said. “It’s definitely one of the top ones.”
For Keller, the broadness of his recruiting will be decided in part by how much more – or if – he grows. Keller currently measures at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. At 6-foot-3 or taller, the market for Keller likely will become even deeper.
Former OSU quarterback Braxton Miller is also 6-foot-1, and the Buckeyes most recently signed freshman Tate Martell, who is very generously listed at 5-foot-11.
Justin Keller, Riley’s father and a longtime Whitmer assistant coach, said he spoke with OSU quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. At this stage, Justin Keller said, the Buckeyes are waiting to see how Riley Keller develops.
“In talking to Coach Day at Friday Night Lights, one of the things he said about Riley is he loved everything about him, he loved his accuracy, thought he performed really well there,” Justin Keller said. “[Day] said, ‘Before we offer him, we want to see how you develop physically.’
“Riley’s about 6’1” and he told Riley, ‘You don’t have to be 6’4”, 6’5”, but we want to see how much weight you’re going to carry.’ He’s 195 now and he carries it pretty well.”
For quarterbacks, the recruiting process is different from other positions. Unlike defensive ends or wide receivers, programs typically sign only one quarterback per class. As such, the courtship begins early for the country’s top quarterbacks, and programs are eager to fill their future classes with a highly rated passer.
In Ohio State’s case, its projected quarterback in the 2018 class, Emory Jones of Georgia, formally pledged to OSU in July, 2016. Among the current high school juniors, the top three quarterbacks in 247Sports’ composite rankings already have committed.
Due to NCAA rules, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is not allowed to comment on specific recruits. Asked about recruiting quarterbacks, Meyer said the process can be difficult because the top players commit so early.
“It’s really hard nowadays because you don’t really get to see them play,” Meyer said. “They’re locked up. It’s such a critical position. I’m trying to think, the last few guys we’ve actually worked with [in workouts] and watched them throw, they were young, but we’ve had our hands on them.”
Meyer said is there is value in waiting on quarterbacks to mature before making an offer – but a program has to be careful that it doesn’t wait too long.
“There is [value], but it’s risky as hell,” Meyer said. “You get stuck without a quarterback in a class, and you see what happens in college football. A guy sprains an ankle and you’re in a storm now.”
Ohio State, like many programs, is watching Keller’s sophomore season carefully.
Though quarterback recruiting can accelerate in a matter of weeks, Keller said he is not overly concerned about the speed of the process. Keller said if he keeps improving, the correct opportunity will present itself at some point.
“I’m not really trying to worry about any other competition there is with schools,” Keller said. “There are so many opportunities. You have a lot of D-I schools, and if I’m one of the top 10 in my class, I’m all right with that. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to go to the right spot.”