I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little too critical of Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud through the first three weeks of the season.
He’s played really well at times despite dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of some practices during fall camp, and rather than chalk up his struggles with overthrowing receivers or holding onto the ball too long to being a first-year starter with pretty much no college experience before this year, I wondered aloud if he was the right person for the job.
Well, consider me no longer questioning Ryan Day’s decision-making, especially if Stroud’s performance on Saturday afternoon at Rutgers was what the Buckeyes have been seeing in practice all along.
Stroud was sharp against the Scarlet Knights, and didn’t seem to be bothered at all by the shoulder injury, so it’s clear the week off really did him well both from a physical and mental standpoint.
With that, Stroud actually seemed willing to run the ball this week, which was something that was completely absent in his first three starts of the season. I also thought he felt more comfortable in the pocket and gained confidence with each throw.
Not worrying about your shoulder will help in both of those situations.
That said, the one play that stood out to me came with a little more than three minutes left in the second quarter and the Buckeyes up 38-6. Stroud evaded a sack, kept his eyes downfield as he weaved through traffic and found Chris Olave for a 56-yard touchdown pass.
There wasn’t any hesitation. There wasn’t any panic. It was just Stroud making the kind of play we’ve expected – no, demanded – of him from the first snap he took this season.
So maybe instead of picking apart his every move, maybe we should start to appreciate the growth we’re seeing from a player at a position that the most pressure on him of anyone on the field? Just a thought.
Also of note, I want to bring attention to the offensive line, which continues to open up holes for TreVeyon Henderson to make a home-run play and continuously keep Stroud clean.
We saw it last week when former quarterback Justin Fields made his first career start for the Chicago Bears. If you can’t get a good push in the running game and don’t give your signal-caller any time to throw the ball, you’re not going to be successful.
So, while Stroud, Henderson, Olave, Garrett Wilson and others will get all of the attention, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Thayer Munford, Nicholas Petit-Frere, Dawand Jones, Luke Wypler and Matt Jones, who set the pace up front for the Buckeyes.
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