Ohio State begins fall camp on Wednesday, which will once again get the timer going on naming a starting quarterback.
The Buckeyes’ quarterback situation is unlike anything Ohio State has seen in decades. It has been well-publicized that while OSU has two quarterbacks returning who played last year, they don’t have a single player on the current roster who has ever thrown a pass in a college game.
Redshirt freshmen CJ Stroud and Jack Miller both saw time in a couple of games last year, but they only handed the ball off, ran it, or took a knee. It wasn’t exactly the kind of experience head coach Ryan Day was hoping for as he looked ahead to this season.
And it may not have been enough to put an insurmountable distance between those two and current true freshman Kyle McCord, who enrolled in the winter and took part in the Buckeyes’ 15 spring practices.
Despite the inexperience, the competition will eventually have to produce a winner. Day isn’t ready to talk deadlines, but he certainly has some preferences on when a starter will be known
“I’m not gonna put a date on it, but you’d like to have it by the first two weeks of the preseason, in a perfect world, so that you can start to get them the reps ready to play in that first game,” Day said at Big Ten Media Days last month. “But even still, we’re still going to spread the reps around because, like I said earlier today, there’s going to be three guys in this thing all the way to January, or as long as we’re going to play. But I guess if you’re looking for a kind of a ballpark, it would probably be about two weeks into camp.”
All three of Stroud, Miller, and McCord have the same number of career throws, almost the same number of career spring practices thanks to last year’s cancelation, and they have all spent the same amount of time this year with strength coach Mickey Marotti.
For all of these reasons — as well as the looming allure of the transfer portal, Day isn’t ready to name a starter just yet.
“I mean, it’s even to me,” he said. “We’ll see how these last few months, the guys have changed. I think they’ve all done a really good job with Mick. Their bodies look like they’ve changed, they’ve gotten stronger, they’ve gotten faster. So we’ll have a better idea again once we get on the field and start practicing. But we kind of look at the spring practices, 15 practices, and then practice one of preseason is like practice 16 in a body of work. But I’m interested to see what they look like as they come out.”
With 15 practices in spring and 25 in fall camp, there is still a great deal of information to gain and process. And things will only get more complicated should five-star 2022 quarterback Quinn Ewers follow through on reports from last week and enroll at Ohio State this month and partake in camp.
While Ryan Day always wants four scholarship players in his quarterback room, it’s unlikely that he would want them all with freshman eligibility.
But such is life in today’s college football. The NCAA granted a free year to all college athletes last year, and the new name, image, and likeness rules may bring Ewers to Ohio State’s campus a year earlier than expected.
It’s a complete juggling act for Day right now and you just never quite know if another ball (or a chainsaw) is going to be thrown in the mix.
“I don’t know what this is going to look like moving forward. If I did, I’d probably sleep a little better right now. But I don’t know,” he said. “And I know that we want to have that room be around for two to three to four years so that we can have experience as we get into December and January because that’s one of the things we haven’t had. We’ve had really good quarterback play in Dwayne [Haskins] and Justin [Fields], but not a lot of experience where it’s a third-year starter. We had that with JT [Barrett] and that was great. We’re trying to get that again.”
Naming a starter this month may be a step in that direction, but in a room as potentially talented as Ohio State’s, winning the job one week may not mean he’ll have it the next. And winning the job one year doesn’t mean it will be his the next.
College football is changing daily, but when it comes to the quarterback position, that’s something the Buckeyes have become accustomed to. Ohio State is about to go 15 years with only one starting quarterback reaching his senior season. JT Barrett was the last senior starting quarterback for the Buckeyes, and the first since Troy Smith in 2006.
From Troy Smith, you can go almost 30 years back to 1978 to find a line of Buckeye starting quarterbacks who were either seniors, or kept the job for years until they were. But those days appear to be gone for now.
If Ohio State has a four-year starter at quarterback, the question will become why wasn’t he good enough to leave early? And even having a three-year starter likely means he won the job as a true freshman — and if that happens, you have to wonder why the returning players weren’t good enough to keep that from happening.
At this point, it almost feels like the quarterback recruiting is going to so well that it will only ever allow for a two-year starter. No player will be good enough to win the job as a freshman, and no starter will need to stick around for a senior season.
It’s an interesting situation to be in, and for as convoluted as it sounds, about 125 other college football programs would love such convolution.
College football is in a state of constant change right now and nowhere is that more evident than the quarterback position. The only way to adapt is to recruit as much talent as possible, which is exactly what Ryan Day has done.
Now he just needs to find a starter for this year. And then do it all over again next year.
“I mean, we’re gonna play the best player. And that’s what it’s gonna come down to,” he said. “We’ll kind of figure that out as we go. I don’t know if it’s going to be as easy as just saying, ‘Okay, here’s the starting quarterback,’ and he’s our guy for three years. You know, I’d like to think that’s going to be the case. But my experience tells me that’s not going to be the case. So that’s the unknown of this season, for sure.”