Welcome to an ongoing series here at Land-Grant Holy Land — Freshman Focus. Spring practice is officially underway, and this year’s crop of Buckeyes is already hard at work preparing for the 2021 campaign. That being the case, now is a great time to introduce you to Ohio State’s incredibly talented freshman class. Each edition of Freshman Focus will highlight one of the newest Buckeyes, and will hopefully provide a glimpse at what they will bring to the team in the coming years.
Today’s freshman: Kyle McCord.
Yet another top prospect to come to Ohio State by way of Pennsylvania, McCord lands in Columbus as the nation’s No. 3 pro-style quarterback the the No. 27 prospect in the 2021 class overall. Ryan Day has quickly made his mark in the college football world as a QB guru, and after snagging Justin Fields in the transfer portal in 2019 and getting a pair of top prospects in Jack Miller and CJ Stroud in the 2020 class, he has done it yet again by adding McCord to this year’s roster.
Despite his five-star status, McCord hauled in less than 20 offers as a result of his early strong commitment to the Buckeyes all the way back in April of 2019. Still, many of the top programs around the country were vying for the elite QB’s services, including the likes of Baylor, Michigan, UNC, Texas A&M, Penn State and of course Ohio State. The in-state Nittany Lions were included in his top schools list in March of that year, and it was really always a two-team race — despite his father playing at Rutgers from 1988-92 — with the Buckeyes ultimately emerging victorious as the perceived favorite most of the way.
A three-year starter at St. Joseph’s Prep, McCord was an absolute star at the high school level. Helping lead the Hawks to three-straight state championships, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound signal caller threw for over 2,800 yards and 38 touchdowns with a 66.5% completion percentage as a sophomore before following that up with nearly 2,400 yards and 31 touchdowns despite missing four games with injury as a junior. This past season, McCord racked up six TDs in the 6A semifinal before a 21-of-28 passing performance for 336 yards and two TDs against York in the state title game.
Overal, McCord finished his career at St. Joseph’s with 6,887 passing yards and 88 touchdown passes — both of which are city and league records. He was rewarded for his efforts by being named a member of the 2020 Pennsylvania MaxPreps All-State team, and looking at some of his highlights with the Hawks, it is easy to see why:
Ohio State has had a ton of success recruiting in Pennsylvania these past few classes. It is the second-straight recruiting class the Buckeyes have managed to steal a five-star prospect from their neighbors to the East, notably landing Julian Fleming in 2020 — the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver and the top player from PA in that cycle. In addition to earning a commitment from McCord in 2021, they also snagged his high school teammate Marvin Harrison Jr. The son of NFL Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison will be featured in his own edition of Freshman Focus sometime soon.
As a five-star prospect himself, McCord has received a ton of praise in the scouting department as he looks to see his skillset translate to the next level. He has already drawn comparisons to NFL veteran QB Matthew Stafford, and is getting early projections as a future second-round NFL Draft pick. Here is what 247Sports national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn had to say of McCord’s outlook:
“Wide-shouldered frame with good height and size. Strong arm and accurate. Spins ball well. Poised under pressure. Great leadership qualities. Plays with high IQ. Can throw 15-yard out on line. Touch to throw over linebackers on intermediate routes. Has quick release with good arm angle. Fits balls into tight windows. Accurate throwing on run. Moves in pocket. Extends plays. Needs to continue to develop escapability. More consistency needed on deep balls. Multi-year starter at top 15 program. Projects to be an early round NFL draft pick.”
As you very well know by now, the departure of Justin Fields to the NFL Draft leaves an obvious hole for the Buckeyes at quarterback. The story of this offseason will assuredly be the heated quarterback battle, which will be a full three-man tilt between the returning players on the roster in Miller and Stroud as well as the first-year McCord. Despite being a year behind the other two guys fighting for the job, it would be silly to rule out McCord as the potential starter in 2021 for a number of reasons.
Firstly, despite being members of the team this past season, neither Miller nor Stroud attempted a pass in a game for Ohio State. Both of them scored rushing touchdowns against inferior opponents in garbage time, but the two freshmen didn’t get a chance to use their arms in live game action. As a result, McCord is not that far behind those two. While they have both had an extra year to work with the coaching staff, build their bodies in the weight room and learn the Buckeyes’ playbook, they don't have the all-important edge of real game reps.
Secondly, McCord is technically the highest-rated of the three coming out of high school. Miller was a four-star prospect in 2020, ranked as the No. 13 pro-style QB in the cycle. Stroud was able to achieve five-star status near the end of his recruitment as the nation’s No. 2 pro-style QB, but came in as the No. 42 player in the country. While all of the trio’s rankings are certainly impressive, and any one of them would likely start right away at nearly every other program in the country, McCord has a bit of an edge in the ranking department — at least on paper.
Be that as it may, we will just have to wait and see how the competition plays out on the field. All of the rankings and what these guys have done in the past can be thrown out the window as the coaches look to evaluate how the trio looks on the practice field these next few months. One of the three are going to be Ohio State’s next starting quarterback, and regardless of who wins the job, the Buckeyes will undoubtably be in good hands. McCord is an excellent quarterback prospect, and if he looks as good as he did at the previous level, he could find his name at the top of the depth chart come August.