Former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard told ESPN that he has verbally committed to transfer to Ohio State, linking one of the top portal quarterbacks with a high-wattage destination.

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 Kansas State to a Big 12 title game win over TCU in 2022. The Ohio State staff evaluated all of the top portal quarterbacks and arrived with conviction that Howard was the best among them, as they valued his arm strength, experience and dual-threat ability.

He’ll be a fifth-year senior with one year of eligibility remaining, and he’ll enter Ohio State as the favorite to start in 2024. He chose Ohio State after visiting both Miami and USC. He also seriously looked at heading to the NFL. He visited Ohio State this week and is expected to wrap up there on Thursday night.

“I’m glad I took my time with this decision,” Howard told ESPN. “Through it, I got to learn a lot about myself and college football in general. It was a great process. I’m really glad I ended up choosing Ohio State.

“I knew if that if I passed this up, I’d regret passing up the chance to go be the quarterback at Ohio State. I knew I’d be kicking myself if I passed up this opportunity.”

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

Howard’s best statistical season came in 2023, as he completed 61.3% of his passes and finished the year with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Opposing coaches consistently complimented his development, as he became a polished passer and earned second-team All Big-12 honors in 2023.

There were multiple pulls to Ohio State. Howard stressed that he enjoyed getting to know both Miami offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and USC coach Lincoln Riley. But he ultimately found Ohio State as the most ready to compete immediately for a national title.

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

Howard also brings individual goals, as he said the feedback he got from the NFL is that he projected anywhere between the late second round and the fourth round.

Howard received a coveted Senior Bowl invitation this week, per sources. But he realizes a season of winning big at Ohio State would go a long way in helping his draft stock.

“The goal I have, I want to go win a national championship,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to go be a starting quarterback in the NFL…I feel like the best place to stick 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 make a jump and leap into that conversation.”

That’s where Ohio State’s scheme proved appealing, as Ohio State coach Ryan Day has tutored three first-round picks at quarterback since 2019, including current NFL Rookie of the Year favorite C.J. Stroud.

“Talking to Coach Day about the scheme, I got excited,” Howard said, stressing that pro concepts in Ohio State’s offense. “Kansas State is very pro-style, and gets you ready for the pros better than most programs in the country. I didn’t want to lose any of that momentum.

“When Coach Day and I met and went through the scheme, I’m a total football nerd and talk ball all day. We hit it off in that way. I knew that was the system that would get me the most prepared for that level.”

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

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

He finished by leading the team to the Big 12 title last season after taking over the starting job and beating TCU in the Big 12 championship. He then led Kansas State to a 8-4 season in 2023. It included an overtime loss to Texas and falling to Missouri on a 61-yard field goal.

He said that he’s remained close to Kansas State coach Chris Klieman, who he’s consulted with throughout his transfer process.

“All the experiences and the stuff I had to go through there, the tough times and the great times and the relationships, it turned me into who I am today,” he said, summing up his Kansas State experience. “I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.”

Howard knows he’s entering Ohio State at a pressure-packed time, as the Buckeyes began the last two seasons 11-0 but lost to Michigan both years. Last year, Ohio State lost to Georgia in the final seconds of a College Football Playoff thriller. This year, the Buckeyes 14-3 to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. They’ve lost three straight to Michigan.

He’s quickly learned the passion of the rivalry, as when a reporter asked him about Michigan he quickly cut in — “You mean the Team Up North.” He laughed: “They won’t say that M word. I guess I won’t be saying it either.”

He did acknowledge the pressure cooker he’s walking into, as the Buckeyes enter 2024 on a two-game losing streak and they’ll be an increased onus on beating Michigan.

“We definitely talked about that,” he said. “That game means so much. The pressure is on. Beating that Team Up North is priority No. 1 on the way to the national championship and all our other goals. That’s huge and it’s everything when it comes to playing for Ohio State.”

“I know the implications and what it means to the fan base and everyone in the program. That’s the Team Up North now.”