COLUMBUS -- After entering last season as Ohio State’s prospective starting quarterback, C.J. Stroud finds himself in a much different situation this preseason.
Not only is he THE starting quarterback, he is also a captain.
He said the latter has not changed him much.
“I’ve always felt like by God’s grace I was a natural-born leader, that He blessed me with that ability,” said Stroud, a third-year sophomore from California. “I feel like I can relate to a lot of people in different situations so that’s what I keep doing. I just keep being myself and being unapologetically me, understanding my role at Ohio State is to be a captain and a leader.”
After putting up huge numbers a year ago, Stroud is considered a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Having proven he can do big things, it’s the smaller ones he is focusing on this fall.
Namely, he wants to be a better manager of the game in his second season as the starter.
“If it’s not there just going through my reads, going through my progression if that needs be or running for the first down,” Stroud said. “But the game has been slower for me, which I think is a good thing.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson agreed Stroud started showing captain tendencies long before the vote was held last week, but he expects the quarterback’s influence to increase exponentially with his new designation.
“I know there’s some individual stat things he’s up for, and that always sounds good, but I think he’s gotten more into the team element,” Wilson said. “I think he tried really, really hard to be a great team player in the offseason. Now he’s been voted captain, so I think that exponentially grows, but I think he was that back in spring.”
That comes with status and the confidence of one who knows where he stands.
“I think he knew he was the quarterback,” Wilson said. “I think he knew he had a chance to play well. I think he knew he had a great supporting cast. I think you knew Coach Day was going doctor (the offense) up and that passing game was gonna work, but I think he knew no matter what happened last year, it still wasn’t the championship that all great quarterbacks want.
“I think he’s done everything he can, prior to even being named team captain to be a team leader, and be a little bit more vocal with telling guys, ‘That wasn’t good enough.’ He’s been probably more outspoken than any player the last couple of years, just encouraging, or also demanding that he expects someone to do better. It’s been great to see.”
Stroud having locked down the starting job last year also may have given his backup more piece of mind this fall.
Kyle McCord, who got a shot to win the vacant starting job after he arrived in January 2021 as a true freshman, is firmly entrenched as the No. 2 man for 2022.
That might seem like a step back, but it’s a role that allows McCord to focus more on the future.
“Now that I’m not competing for a job, I’m still trying to bring out the best version of myself, but at the same time you know it’s definitely a process,” he said. “That was something that maybe I didn’t see right when I got here with a quarterback competition going on. Now it’s something I’ve come to terms with.”
This year, Devin Brown is in the role of newcomer trying to catch up with players who have been in Columbus for a year or two longer.
‘Obviously, there’s still struggles every day, but I think it’s slowed down a little bit,” Brown said. “And I kind of understand what’s going on, what kind of looks I’m getting (from the defense).”