You don't have to dig too deep to find the single most important question of the Ohio State offseason. Determining the starting quarterback for the 2021 campaign is at the top of the list.
By all accounts, the Buckeyes have talented options available. But what they possess in raw skillset, they lack in experience - and there in lies the challenge for head coach/QB guru Ryan Day and quarterback's coach Corey Dennis.
C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller III are entering their second year in the program. While they've each had a chance to go through the rigors of a (albeit tumultuous) season, learn the playbook and study the way Justin Fields played, those two players took a combined 18 snaps during 2020 in actual game play.
Neither one threw a pass.
“There were a lot of snaps out there to be had (two years ago),” Day told the media in his first press conference after the season ended. “Right now, we didn't have those snaps. I wish we were further along.”
“I wish they had gotten more game reps,” Day continued. “You don't really know what you have in a quarterback until they're playing in the game. These guys had very, very limited reps. You would have more if you had a normal spring, preseason and then a season.”
So when you consider that incoming freshman SI All-American quarterback Kyle McCord has early enrolled and has started his process to get ingratiated with college football, McCord really isn't very far behind Stroud and Miller. Ryan Day has publicly said that McCord will absolutely have a chance to compete for the starting job this fall. He's the first five-star quarterback to commit to the Buckeyes since Braxton Miller, although C.J. Stroud was a borderline five-star player as well.
“From everything that the coaches have told me, they said it’s going to be a wide-open battle as soon as the time comes,” McCord told Eleven Warriors in an interview last month. “So I’m just excited for it. I feel like I’ve been preparing to the best of my abilities to put myself in a good position to win the job. But obviously there’s a lot of work that has to be done between now and then to do so.
The challenge for Day and his staff this spring will be to simulate as many game-like settings as they can to really test those three guys.
“We're going to have to find ways this spring between C.J., Jack and Kyle to give them as many game-like situations to figure out exactly what we've got,” Day said. “Because we can't go into that first game without knowing, or at least having an idea. I guess we'll never know until we're in a game. But we've got to try to simulate the games the best we can in practice, which may be a unique way of doing the spring. We're going to look at all of those things to try to figure that out because we need to be further along because that's going to be a huge part of what happens in the fall.”
Is it C.J. Stroud's job to lose? He seems like the slightly more popular option at the moment and he appeared to be the backup for Fields the couple of times this year when he had to miss a couple plays. But it's hard to really know for sure with such a small sample size.
Whoever wins the job, they've got to be ready to handle a huge responsibility.
“Being the starting quarterback at Ohio State is unlike any other position there is,” Day said. “I think they get that, I think they understand it. I think they were able to see this year what Justin did and the stage. The stakes are very, very high here, and I think they learned that. But in terms of the football part, still figuring it out, still learning. I think they both need to get stronger here in the spring physically, and then they're going to be getting the majority of the reps here as we roll, and they're going to compete.”
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