Understandably, Ohio State’s recruiting has been a bit slow in the months following the transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day. A few recruits have still signed up to play for the Buckeyes, but right now quite a few prospects are playing a wait and see game. They’re waiting to be sure that Ohio State under Day is as good on the field as they were under Meyer. The recruiting approach is essentially the same, the way the program is run is essentially the same, but until there are wins on the board, it’s easy to understand the hesitation.
Because of that, a lot of Ohio State’s top targets, both in 2020 and 2021 have been expressing plenty of interest in the Buckeyes, but staying a bit distant. They’re watching to make sure Ohio State is still elite before they make any big decisions. That means we’re in for a pretty slow summer, and what could be a massive fall if the Buckeyes do keep winning under Day.
The wait and see approach isn’t for every recruit though. There are plenty of recruits that have bought in to what Ryan Day is selling, and what to secure their spot at Ohio State now, before someone else does. Nowhere is this more apparent than at quarterback, where, in just about four months, Ryan Day has already landed four players. Sure, two of them are transfers (Justin Fields, Gunnar Hoak), and one is a preferred walk-on (JP Andrade), but to say that “quarterback under Ryan Day” is a desired position right now is an understatement. After the season Dwayne Haskins just had, seemingly every quarterback in the country wants their chance to play for Day.
Earlier today, Day landed his fourth quarterback in as many months, and presumably put an end to Ohio State’s quarterback recruiting in 2021 with the commitment of Philadelphia signal caller Kyle McCord.
Now, outside of a four-star prospect at a key position more than a year out, what are the Buckeyes getting in their newest quarterback?
On the field
Unlike the last high school quarterback Ryan Day primarily recruited (Matthew Baldwin), I don’t see Kyle McCord as a project, and his high four-star rating supports that. His tape doesn’t show any major mechanical or physical flaws, and the things he actually does need to improve are mostly small, and fairly common issues for good quarterbacks.
Technically though, McCord is sound, and it’s easy to see why Ryan Day likes him. He has a smooth repeatable motion, he understands how to use his size to generate more force, and he’s a very natural thrower with good strength. He has a bit of a wind-up, but I don’t think it’ll be an issue at the next level because he has a pretty quick release. He’s able to get good zip on his passes because of his technique, which essentially means that Ohio State has less work to do with him once he arrives on campus.
McCord’s accuracy and ability to read a defense impressed me too. He has good command of touch and seems to be able to hit any target within about 20 yards with relative ease. He doesn’t have many throws into traffic on film, and when he does throw into traffic, that zip again comes into play and can usually bail him out.
Now, because he’s a high school quarterback, there are some weaknesses. Firstly, he’s not a great athlete. That obviously isn’t the worst thing in the world in this offense (see: Dwayne Haskins) but it is something to think about, especially when we look at weaknesses number two: pocket presence. This is often the last thing for a quarterback to develop, and it’s obvious that McCord is still learning. He’s able to step up in the pocket and deliver the ball sometimes, but other times he panics a bit, and looks to improvise out of the pocket.
Because of his athleticism (or lack thereof), that works in high school. It won’t in college. He’ll have to improve his confidence in the pocket. Lastly, he doesn’t seem super willing to really air the ball out. There seems to be about a 30 yard ceiling on most of his throws. I don’t think it’s an arm strength thing (he can and will launch the ball 55 yards with ease), but more of an accuracy issue. He loses his touch a bit on the longer passes, and has a tendency to overthrow his receivers.
Again, this is one of the better problems for a young quarterback to have. Pocket presence can be taught, and average at best deep ball accuracy can be overcome, especially in Ohio State’s air raid-lite offense. It’s much harder to fix broken mechanics, or overcome a player simply not being strong enough to generate zip, or inaccurate within 25 yards, and none of that will be an issue for McCord. That makes me think that he’ll come in as a freshman ready to push Jack Miller for the starting job, and while he may not win, he’ll provide excellent competition right away. He’s already a very talented and solid quarterback, and with Ryan Day doing the fine tuning, I think McCord is a future NFL type.
In the class
The importance of landing a quarterback this early in a class really can’t be overstated. They serve as an ambassador for the program, and are often the lead recruiter anytime they join a class. It helps with recruiting positions directly impacted by the quarterback, and positions on the complete other side of the ball. It’s all about buying in with college football recruiting, and when an elite quarterback buys in early, it plays very well to other recruits.
I think we’ll see that have a tangible impact pretty immediately. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Ohio State rattles off a few 2021 commits in the next few months, namely McCord’s teammate Marvin Harrison Jr, offensive tackle Ben Christman, receiver Lorenzo Styles, defensive end Najee Story, and a few other very interested prospects. Having a top quarterback and one of the best players in the country (Jack Sawyer) committed this early is a massive deal.
When it comes to McCord, he committed to Ohio State over 18 other offers, from top schools like Penn State, Michigan, Texas A&M, West Virginia and Virginia Tech, among others. He’ll be the only quarterback for Ohio State in 2021, and I’d be surprised if he has any interest in visiting elsewhere.