BOISE, Idaho – Let’s start this off on a positive note.
Nathan Rourke is healthy, well-rested and ready for one last go around with the Bobcats.
Turning the page to the negative, however, it’s filled with both challenge and intrigue.
Freshman backup Kurtis Rourke had season-ending shoulder surgery in the last week of November and redshirt freshman Joe Mischler entered himself into the transfer portal.
Enter Drew Keszei.
Keszei, a redshirt sophomore, was originally brought into the quarterback room when he was recruited out of Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. After he spent two seasons, the offensive coaching staff told him they were switching him to wide receiver.
“They (the staff) were like, ‘We feel like you could help the team out better by playing receiver,’” Keszei said. “So, I said I would. I’m up for helping the team no matter what.”
The position switch happened last spring. He spent ample time before and after practices working on his craft and even more time in the film room with a playbook in hand.
The transition from quarterback to wide receiver was as difficult as he may have thought. After playing what’s typically referred to as the most difficult position in football, the move to receiver with the knowledge of the entire offense was beneficial for Keszei.
He knew the block protections on pass plays. He knew the quarterback reads and the proper route trees for check downs. He knew the audibles at the line that change protection based off of what the defense gives.
“Transitioning from quarterback to receiver really helped me in the beginning part with routes and knowing what to do,” he said. “But then I had to progress and learn how to run the routes.”
That’s not to take away from his first position, however, as he was told to always be ready because you never know what can happen in a season.
As the elder Rourke began to dominate in his senior year, even though Keszei spent all but two games at wide receiver, he would still watch both in games and in practice to get the mental repetitions in order to stay as sharp as possible.
“You have to be mentally prepared first before you can do it physically.”
Keszei’s greatest strength as a quarterback is his pure athleticism. Listed at 6-foot-1-inch and a few pounds over 200, his elusive shiftiness shines on the practice field but hasn’t had the most opportunities to be seen under the lights. That athletic ability is something that Ohio has prided itself with having at the quarterback position under Solich, offensive coordinator Tim Albin and quarterback coach Scott Isphording.
And with Keszei specifically, it feels almost like a secret weapon if his number is called upon.
“Bringing him back, I think he was excited,” Isphording said. “When he’s able to just let things come to him, I think he’s just able to see the field very well and use some of his athleticism.”
Even though he’s been in-and-out of the quarterback room, Isphording is trying to keep it simple for Keszei.
“Hey, drop back, throw it to the open guy and if he’s covered, take off and run,” he said. “You can keep it that simple and actually play football that way.”
Obviously, the Bobcats only would want to see Keszei in the game if they’re running up the scoreboard, and if he gets in, they shouldn’t feel worried about what the product will be out on the field.
“It was always pressed to me that I had to be ready just in case anything happens,” Keszei said.
Well, he’s ready. And with just two days before Ohio’s last game of the 2019 season, the Bobcats will have their third different backup quarterback ready to go if he’s needed.