A handful of media members were permitted to watch a few minutes of Friday’s Ohio State football practice, giving outsiders their first glimpse at the three quarterbacks who are competing to replace Justin Fields.
Not much throwing was seen, as redshirt freshmen CJ Stroud and Jack Miller repped in order, then were followed by true freshman Kyle McCord. Simple seam routes or skinny posts were the order of the day, at least early on. Later in practice after the media was ushered out, head coach Ryan Day had the team scrimmage for about 50 plays.
No judgments can be made on the quarterbacks in the 20 or so minutes the media watched them. And no judgments have been made from the coaches and players who have seen every single snap. Other than the talent is definitely there.
“Really across the board, these coaches are recruiting their ass off, man,” said senior safety Marcus Williamson when asked to assess the quarterbacks. “And so you look over there and the way these quarterbacks sling the ball, just seeing their improvement day to day is really exciting. I can’t give any specifics, but I’ve been really impressed with the growth of these young guys, especially with them not having any game experience. And just taking that step every day, just every day working to get better. What’s today, April 1st? We kick off in September, so just taking that step, it’s been great to see. So I’m excited for those guys to see what they do.”
While Marcus Williamson is impressed with the quarterbacks, based on the two interceptions in this clip below, one defensive back who may not be all that enamored with them is redshirt freshman Cam Martinez.
That’s obviously a joke, but the interceptions were quite serious. And so has been Martinez’s improvement.
Martinez was an incredible option quarterback in high school, so last year was a learning experience for him. And given what the last year has been like for everybody, it wasn’t the best environment to learn in.
Despite those difficulties, however, Martinez has grown and continues to show it on and off the field.
“Well, I’ll tell you this about Cam Martinez, you can’t sit in a meeting without hearing great things about him right now,” said secondary coach Matt Barnes. “Whether that’s strength and conditioning, our nutritionist brags about him, our training staff brags about him. I just five minutes ago walked out of a special teams meeting where coach Fleming was bragging on how well he’s done in special teams. Cam has really, really put his head down and gone to work since this past season ended, and he’s got to be one of the most improved guys so far that we’ve seen. He’s played inside, he’s played outside, he’ll play true safety for us. Again we’re really just diving into techniques and concepts right now.”
The process of becoming game-ready takes time and it takes great effort. Cam Martinez played in two games last year, seeing time on special teams in both outings. It can be frustrating not getting on the field, but if that frustration fuels the player rather than poisons him, he can use it to his benefit.
That’s also the case at running back this year for the Buckeyes as Ohio State is currently practicing with six scholarship running backs, as well as walk-on Xavier Johnson who is one of the starters on the OSU special teams. Fourth-year junior Master Teague is the incumbent, but this is a very talented room overall — but it’s a room with just 72 total carries outside of Teague.
While there may be a pecking order in terms of experience, that doesn’t mean players need to wait their turn. In fact, running backs coach Tony Alford doesn’t want his players to be patient when it comes to waiting their turn.
“Absolutely, because if you ask anybody who really knows me intimately, patience is not one of my better traits,” he said. “And that’s putting it mildly, just ask my children. And ask my players, I’m not a real patient person. And so you don’t say ‘Hey, be patient, wait your turn.’ ‘For what? I’m not trying to wait my turn.’ For what? Come take a job. JK Dobbins, ask him if he was patient. They’re not patient. They’re not patient by nature, so I’m not trying to instill it. I don’t want them to be patient. Come take a job. Show the staff that we have to play you. That I don’t have a choice but to play you because you are by far the best guy we got.
“Show me. Don’t tell me, show me. And so yeah, we’re not teaching patience. Now in the same understanding, if you’re not playing, I don’t want to go off the rails either and throw some tantrums. But again, those are highly competitive guys and so when you recruit them, you recruit them and you know that going in. Okay, we’ve gotta temper that. That’s part of the dynamics of the room and dealing with the dynamics of the room and knowing the people that are in the room.”