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Ohio State’s three-way quarterback battle is heating up

C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller have a leg up in the competition because of their familiarity with Ohio State’s offense, but incoming freshman Kyle McCord will get a chance to win the starting quarterback job.

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

This is the first year in quite some time that Ohio State has to truly break in a new quarterback. The Buckeyes have had amazing continuity at the position over the last decade. About the only questions Ohio State has had to answer recently at quarterback was whether J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones was going to start in 2015, and whether Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow was going to replace Barrett at quarterback heading into the 2018 season.

With Justin Fields skipping his senior season and declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft, Ryan Day now has to make a tough decision on who will be starting for the Buckeyes in the fall. Not only does Day have C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller entering their second year with the program, but Kyle McCord has enrolled for classes early and will be in the mix to earn the starting quarterback role.

Stroud and Miller figure to have a leg up in the competition because they have had some time to learn the playbook and what Day will want them to do in the offense. That advantage won’t be quite as noticeable as in years past because of the shortened 2020 season. Normally the duo would have likely seen more time in some of Ohio State’s blowout wins, but with the Buckeyes only playing about half the games that they normally would, Stroud and Miller only took 18 combined snaps in the fall — neither of which attempting a single pass.

As of now it seems like Stroud would be the slight favorite to take over for Fields only because he was the first quarterback that Day turned to in 2020 when Fields wasn’t on the field. There isn’t a huge gap between Stroud, Miller, and McCord though, so things could easily change. Because of the heated competition, spring camp will be even more important for Ohio State, as Day and his coaching staff will be trying to get as much of a look at the trio as possible.

No matter who ends up taking the snaps at quarterback for Ohio State, at least they’ll have plenty to work with on offense. Not only do the Buckeyes have Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere returning on the offensive line, Ohio State is loaded at wide receiver with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and a number of other weapons. The talent the Buckeyes can offer on offense should be able to help speed up the process of getting the new starter comfortable at quarterback.

The dark horse in the Ohio State quarterback race is incoming freshman Kyle McCord. The Keystone State product has just been named the Pennsylvania Player of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club after leading St. Joseph’s Prep to their third straight Class 6A title last year, and throwing for 21 touchdowns. McCord is the first five-star quarterback to sign with Ohio State out of high school since Braxton Miller in 2011.

McCord has been told by Ryan Day that he’ll have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback position this fall. That should tell you everything you need to know about how highly the coaching staff think of McCord. Normally true freshmen quarterbacks would be eased into the role more and get some time to not only adjust to life on campus, but to also adjust to college football. Day and company want to see what McCord can do right away, and if he has what it takes to take the snaps for the Buckeyes this fall.

While losing a quarterback like Fields would be tough for any team, Ohio State is in a little better position to handle the loss because of the depth they have at the position. The Buckeyes not only are adding McCord to the mix with Stroud and Miller, Ohio State also has top quarterback prospect Quinn Ewers committed in the class of 2022.

That is why McCord knows he has to make a name for himself early in Columbus. McCord has already enrolled in classes at Ohio State, and he’ll start winter workouts with Mickey Marotti next week. If McCord is able to beat out Stroud and Miller and start for the Buckeyes this fall, he’ll be the first Ohio State true freshman to start a full season at quarterback for the Buckeyes since Art Schlichter in 1978.

While it’s going to be hard for Ohio State to go wrong with whoever ends up starting at quarterback for the Buckeyes this fall, the most intriguing prospect could be McCord. The incoming freshman has to feel like the odds are against him because Stroud and Miller already have a year under their belt with the Buckeyes. McCord might seem like a little bigger risk right now, but the reward could be big for Ohio State in 2021 if he is able to win the job.