Ohio State Buckeyes: Sizing up the QB competition after C.J. Stroud’s departure

C.J. Stroud’s decision to enter the 2023 NFL Draft means Ryan Day is facing the second real quarterback competition of his five-year tenure as head coach of the Ohio State football team.

While Day claimed Justin Fields was not the predetermined starter in his first season in 2019, few doubted the job was Fields’ to lose after transferring from Georgia.

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Fields starred for two seasons before entering the 2021 NFL Draft and leaving behind three freshmen to compete for the right to replace him, a battle Stroud won.

Two years ago, Day had an unprecedented situation as none of his potential quarterbacks had even thrown a college pass.

This one is not like that one in that regard, but it should still be intriguing to watch play out.

Kyle McCord, a five-star prospect from New Jersey who was part of the battle with Stroud and Jack Miller III in 2021, played in seven games and threw 20 passes for the Buckeyes last season.

McCord, a 6-foot-3, 222-poundern also has a start under his belt, having stepped in for Stroud last season against Akron when the regular starter needed to rest his throwing shoulder, so the experience level he brings into the competition is much greater than anyone enjoyed two years ago.

McCord isn’t likely to be anointed the starter anytime soon, though.

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Devin Brown has only been in Columbus for a year and seen action in two games, but he also has a strong recruiting pedigree.

The 6-3, 210-pounder played in two games last season without throwing a pass, but having a full season to learn the offense puts him ahead of where McCord was two years go when he was trying to jump over redshirt freshmen Stroud and Miller to replace Fields.

Of the two, Brown is perceived to bring more of a running threat to the position than McCord, who is viewed as a pure drop-back passer.

“I feel like I’m a playmaking type of guy,” Brown said during Peach Bowl media day in Atlanta last month.

“I’m not a really fast guy, but I can make guys miss, and I have the ability to run. I feel like my arm talent is there, but it’s there for everybody on this level.

“So I wouldn’t say it’s spectacular, but it’s something that I think is very good. I wouldn’t say much more than that. A little bit athletic and I can throw the ball around.”

Day’s version of the Ohio State offense does not rely on a running quarterback nearly to the degree of predecessor Urban Meyer, but running ability can be a major asset.

Whether that makes a difference when the time comes to pick a starter for the season-opening game at Indiana remains to be seen.

Whoever is the starter will be expected to get the ball to play-making receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, but he should also have a deep collection of running backs to utilize after injuries ravaged that position last season.

The offensive line is also going to be a question mark after the departure of both starting tackles and the team’s No. 1 center.

Could that impact Day’s decision, particularly how he views the ability of the quarterback to be not just a scrambler but a regular part of the running game?

Time will tell, but if past is prologue, the head coach can also be expected to play it close to the vest when it comes to talking about his decision.

Quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis was certainly that way during Peach Bowl media day.

“The good thing about our room is the culture of the quarterback room has been around for a while with (J.T. Barrett) and Cardale (Jones) and Dwayne (Haskins) and all those guys,” Dennis said, referring to Ohio State’s starters from 2014-18. “They just had the constant of just growing and getting better. I think that all those guys had that mindset because playing quarterback at Ohio State is a challenging, demanding thing, and I think all those guys want to get better every single day.”

Whoever does claim the starting job will have high standards to meet.

A Buckeye has been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year five years in a row, and the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year has been from Ohio State in 10 of the 11 seasons the award has existed, including the last seven.

“You walk in the (Ohio State football facility) and it’s J.T. Barrett when he went to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and then Dwayne, Justin and C.J.,” McCord said during bowl media day. “It has definitely turned into one of the more elite positions across the country regardless of position or school. There is definitely a standard. If you want to play this position at this school, you have to live up to that standard.

“With that comes a lot of responsibility. Preparing every single day, working with the receivers extra, watching extra film — whatever it is, it comes the territory. Whatever the standard is that the guys set before, I think you want to raise the bar one notch higher.”

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