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The Ohio Bobcats run out of the tunnel led by head coach Tim Albin, center, before the game against Kent State at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio, Oct. 7, 2023.

Football column: Ohio’s veteran quarterbacks are both solid starting options

Ohio has been secure at the most important position, quarterback, for the last two seasons behind the arm of former Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Kurtis Rourke. 

In 2024-25, Ohio will venture into the post-Rourke world as the Maple Missle moved onto Indiana via the transfer portal. Ohio does not have a clear starting quarterback for its upcoming season, but it does have a couple of options. 

After failing to retain a stable quarterback option in the transfer portal, Ohio will likely be looking within for a 2024 quarterback. Two fifth-year seniors who have been with the program for multiple years prove to be good options for Ohio at quarterback: CJ Harris, whose 2023 season ended with injury, and former UCF transfer Parker Navarro. 

Despite being behind Rourke for the last two seasons, Harris and Navarro gained valuable experience when Rourke had to miss time with injury. Dating back to the end of the 2022 season, Harris gave the Bobcats an incredible debut performance against Bowling Green, with four total touchdowns and 261 yards.

Harris wasn’t as effective in Ohio’s 2022 MAC title game against Toledo, with 175 total yards, no touchdowns and an interception. However, Harris bounced back with another multiple-touchdown performance in Ohio’s bowl win against Wyoming, including a game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Foster.

Early on in 2023, Harris had some issues stepping into Rourke’s shoes. In Ohio’s first game against San Diego State, Rourke suffered a concussion, making way for Harris. Unfortunately for Ohio, Harris was not nearly as effective as he was in the bowl game, with several missed throws, including three interceptions.

Harris played one more game the rest of the season against LIU, in which he completed seven of eight passes for 44 yards.

One significant advantage Harris has, not just over Navarro but over most other quarterbacks, is his size. At 6 feet, 4 inches and 220 pounds, Harris’ size will make it easier to see over his offensive lineman down the field.

If Harris wins the job for Ohio, the team will want to see him be the capable passer he showed the potential to be during the 2022 Arizona Bowl.

Navarro hasn’t had much responsibility as a passer in the Ohio offense since he arrived ahead of the 2022 season. Still, his speed and elusiveness make him a legitimate dual-threat quarterback. 

Like Harris, Navarro only had substantial playing time in two games in the 2023 season but was efficient in both appearances. On only seven passing attempts against LIU, Navarro threw for 60 yards and two touchdowns. 

In Ohio’s bowl win over Georgia Southern, Navarro had a productive performance, completing 11 of 16 passes for 120 yards and rushing for 71 more yards on 15 carries.

Navarro finished the season with 178 rushing yards on 25 carries. Navarro’s rushing ability meshes very well with Tim Albin’s option-heavy offense.

With two very solid quarterback options, it is no surprise to see this battle for the starting position continue throughout the summer and into the regular season.


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