Ohio State replaces Justin Fields, who leaves a year early for the NFL. Fields is arguably the greatest quarterback in Ohio State history, so replacing him is a rather daunting task. Ohio State will turn to three players who have yet to throw a pass in college football. Yet all three of them come with the kind of accolades that have allowed them to be taking part this spring in an effort to win the quarterback job. Kyle McCord was a 5-star signee in 2021, just as CJ Stroud was in 2020. Jack Miller is the lone 4-star recruit of the bunch and all of them have received positive feedback this winter and heading into the spring. Don’t expect one player to emerge as the starter this spring publicly, but it will be impossible for the players at practice to not see who is leading. If, in fact, somebody is leading.
Spring Depth Chart
14 CJ Stroud rFr OR
9 Jack Miller rFr OR
NA Kyle McCord Fr
- Will anybody pull ahead this spring?
- How are the reps going to be split for Kyle McCord?
- Is somebody good enough to produce like a Ryan Day quarterback is expected to produce?
Expect all three quarterback candidates to get a sizable number of reps this spring. There is no reason to eliminate one of the three candidates too early. All three are very talented and so all three will have the opportunity to win the starting job — or at least keep their foot in the door. A starter being named this spring would be an enormous surprise given that you don’t want to encourage any of the three to leave the program. Ryan Day would prefer to have four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster at all times. Currently, however, the Buckeyes have just three, which means he’s not going to want to put himself and his program in a position to have that number reduced to two by anointing somebody this spring and giving somebody else a reason to leave — especially with the one-time transfer rule being initiated where players will not have to sit out a year. He’s going to want to keep all three quarterbacks engaged. And the thing is, they’re all talented enough to win the job. So when that talent is on display, and things are going well, each of the quarterbacks should see that ‘you know what, I do belong here, I can play here. I’m going to keep competing for this job.’ The last thing Ryan Day will do is let one of these guys know that you are not going to win this job.
What Needs to Happen
Each of the quarterbacks needs to be given the amount of repetitions that will allow Ryan Day and quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis to get a very good idea of what they are each capable of. How much of the offense they’ll be given remains to be seen, but the opportunities need to be presented, the repetitions need to be given, throws needs to be made, decisions and the mistakes, and the successes and failures all need to be part of the process for each of the quarterbacks. I don’t know if you split the reps in terms of 40/40/20 for the returning players, with the 20% being Kyle McCord. Is it a third, a third, a third? If it’s a third, a third, a third then that tells you that they really believe Kyle McCord can win this job. However, in the past, Ryan Day has mostly spent time talking about CJ Stroud and Jack Miller as the quarterback of 2021, even though McCord obviously has come to campus to compete for the job.
What is the worst-case scenario here? There are a couple of different ways to look at this. The worst-case scenario is that none of the three are good enough to start and all three struggle throughout the spring. The thing that will keep Ohio State out of the playoffs is not having a quarterback who is good enough to get them there. And if they don’t have a quarterback that can get them to the playoffs in these three, then that is not a good thing. Defensively, they are what they are, but you need an outstanding offense to make the playoffs. And an outstanding offense is going to require a quarterback that can move the ball. They have the offensive line, they have the running game, they certainly have the receivers, and if there’s no quarterback to go with this group of talent, then it would almost seem like a wasted year. The other worst-case scenario, which is admittedly “less worse,” is Kyle McCord standing out right away and leaving no doubt that he is the quarterback of the present and the future. Why would this be a bad thing? On the surface, finding a starting quarterback is a good thing. And if it’s a true freshman and he is tremendous, then congratulations, you’ve got an elite starter for the next three years. However, if a true freshman wins the job, that tells the redshirt freshmen who are older than him that they have been passed by and it doesn’t entice them to necessarily stick around and compete for the job in the fall or next year or the year after that. Also, Ohio State currently has the number one player in the 2022 recruiting class committed in Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers. If a true freshman, a player one year older than he is, wins the job, is he going to be concerned about that and is he going to see his opportunity delayed even more than it was going to be anyway? Would that cause him to rethink his commitment? So there are a lot of moving pieces to this puzzle. One positive note for Ohio State is that nearly every major program has landed a quarterback commit in 2022, and so there’s there are almost no seats for these musical chairs. However, Oklahoma is one of those teams that has not landed a major quarterback. But that is also because they landed the number one quarterback in the 2021 class, so there’s a lot of things to think about here. The worst-case scenario would be leaving spring and having Ryan Day look at this group and wishing there were something more in the transfer portal. The second worst case scenario would be Kyle McCord standing out above everybody, which would likely have Ryan Day again looking at the transfer portal simply for more depth.
Keep An Eye On
That all being said, keep an eye on Kyle McCord this spring. Right now, no quarterback has a giant advantage because none of these quarterbacks have thrown a pass in a live game against an actual defense. CJ Stroud has run the ball once. Jack Miller has run the ball twice. That’s not exactly how you establish the quarterback of the future. So Kyle McCord comes to town, has enrolled early, has been gearing up for this, and is handpicked by Ryan Day as the quarterback that he wanted in the 2021 class. So there’s a reason for that, and he will be given an opportunity this spring. He may not be getting the same number of reps early on that Stroud and Miller get, but if his reps keep increasing, that’s a pretty good sign for him. He was one of the top pro style quarterbacks in the 2021 class, and as mentioned above is a five-star signee, so there are expectations that have come to Columbus with him. He embraces those expectations, which is something you want your quarterback to do. He is a leader; he was a leader of the recruiting class. He is a leader of the guys who have enrolled early. This is what a quarterback is supposed to do. And at this point, with spring still a little bit on the horizon, McCord has done everything Ohio State has asked him to do. Soon, he will have an opportunity to compete for the starting job by doing what is most important for a quarterback — throwing the ball, moving down the field, and producing points. And if he does it at a better rate than his competitors, he will be the starting quarterback. Now that’s a lot to ask from a freshman, but it’s a lot to ask of any of these three guys because none of them has the kind of game experience that would create an insurmountable lead. Somebody’s going to win the job and whoever it is will have never thrown a pass in college before.
One Last Thing
Don’t be surprised if after spring ball, Ryan Day goes to the transfer portal to find a fourth quarterback. They don’t necessarily need it, but it’s what he would like to have. And it wouldn’t be a guy who would be looking to start necessarily. You would be looking for another Chris Chugunov or Gunnar Hoak to just fill out the roster. That’s not always easy to do. And it’s a tough chore to ask somebody to come in and sit or run the scout team or just be an emergency guy. But there’s an opportunity to win at Ohio State, which is intriguing to a lot of players. For a lot of quarterbacks, especially those who may want to get into coaching, to be coached by Ryan Day is also a plus. So while the spring battles between Jack Miller and CJ Stroud and Kyle McCord will help determine who wins the starting job this fall, that might not be the only three quarterbacks you see this season. That being said, if you’re going to have only three quarterbacks on scholarship, these are three pretty good guys to have. No, the experience isn’t there, but the talent is. These three guys are guys that Ohio State wanted. These are three guys that other schools wanted — Alabama, Georgia, Florida, even Michigan perhaps. But these are all highly-touted guys who are capable of starting at Ohio State. This spring is the first step in figuring out exactly who will run the show this season. That decision, however, may go even beyond fall camp. Could there be two quarterbacks playing the first couple of weeks of the season? It would not be a surprise as they try to keep as many guys engaged as possible, while also continuing to figure out how to make the best decision for the program. Ryan Day is adamant that nothing can replace game reps, and so the only way to get those game reps is by giving more than one quarterback an opportunity to play the game. So while they will try to create game-like situations this spring, how successful that process will be is in the eyes of the quarterbacks coach and the head coach and the offensive coordinator. And if they don’t like what they see, maybe the battle goes into October.