We Ohio State fans aren’t a patient bunch; some might even say that we are overzealous, entitled, and at time prone to hysterics. Those people, frankly, would be underselling the lengths to which our obsession can take us. However, I am urging all of Buckeye Nation to take a deep breath and not get overly worked up about one of the biggest issues facing the football team during spring practices.
We all know that the most important thing that Ryan Day and company need to accomplish this spring is to see what they have in their three highly touted — though concerningly inexperienced — quarterbacks. That’s more important than figuring out how to fix the embarrassingly broken secondary or whether or not true freshman TreVeyon Henderson will be the starting running back in the season opener.
Based on information from the Buckeye beat reporters that have been at practice recently, C.J. Stroud is always first up in drills, but Jack Miller and Kyle McCord are also rotating through the first-team reps. That seems to validate Day’s insistence that all three QBs are still competing for the starting job and that no one has yet separated himself from the pack.
Now, I get that we all want to know who is going to be OSU’s signal-caller this fall, the success or failure of any football team — especially at the collegiate level — is often determined by who lines up behind center. Even when QBs are good, but not exactly great, there can be a ceiling to just how far they can take the team. For all of the statistical records and on-field wins to which J.T. Barrett led the Buckeyes, it never really felt like he was going to be the one to put the team on his back and lead them to the promised land. It was only when Cardale “12 Gauge” Jones entered the picture that Ohio State went from a solid, Big Ten contender to the 2014 national champions.
However, despite the importance of this spring’s quarterback battle, and all that rests on the eventual final decision, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not worth worrying about at this point. Perhaps its my rapidly advancing old age, but I just don’t see the upside in spending a ton of time and energy contemplating a decision that is likely months away from happening (or at least becoming public), especially since we will likely have precious little legitimate information about how the quarterbacks are progressing between now and fall camp — other than the incredibly scripted, non-QB contact Spring Game.
The way I look at it, whomever ends up getting the nod in the Buckeyes’ season-opener against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Thursday, Sept. 2, I can guarantee that he’s gonna be good. You want to know how I can be so confident? Because Day, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, and quarterback coach Corey Dennis have three supremely talented players competing for the job, and whichever one is able to prove that he deserves to be the Ohio State starter is going to have earned it.
We saw very little of Stroud and Miller during the abbreviated 2020 season, and McCord is only a handful of months removed from being a high school senior; so I don’t think that anyone really knows much about how any of these young men will be as college quarterbacks. However, what we do know about each of them is that they are supremely talented. McCord and Stroud were both five-star prospects, and Miller was a five-star prospect until injuries derailed his senior season.
Additionally, all three are athletic, pro-style quarterbacks who are deservedly confident in their abilities, and we know that they are not afraid of competition. If any of them were not confident and/or were afraid of competition, we wouldn’t be in this situation, because all three of them wouldn’t be in Columbus today.
Stroud committed to the Buckeyes knowing that Miller had already been the class’ QB for years, and McCord signed with OSU, despite knowing that the other two were already on campus and a (wonky pandemic) year ahead in learning the system. So, by virtue of the fact that they are all currently Buckeyes, we know that each and every one of them has the mental makeup to thrive under the intense spotlight of an Ohio State quarterback battle.
I think that it’s also safe to assume that all three know how to work hard, because if any of them had come out of winter conditioning and hadn’t lived up to Micky Marotti’s lofty expectations, I feel comfortable in saying that they wouldn’t be getting equal first-team run in practice with the other two QBs.
So to recap, here’s what we know:
- All three quarterbacks are incredibly athletic and talented.
- All three quarterbacks are confident in their abilities.
- All three quarterbacks are competitive and not afraid of a challenge.
- All three quarterbacks are working their proverbial asses off.
Knowing all of that, I think that I’d be comfortable with whomever gets the call in 146 days when the Bucks travel to the Twin Cities. Now, of course, having multiple quality options at quarterback doesn’t guarantee that the coaches aren’t going to screw up getting the right guy on the field.
Fortunately for us, Georgia coach Kirby Smart didn’t live up to his surname when he decided to play Jake Fromm over Justin Fields in 2018. That blunder led the QB to transfer to Ohio State and lead the Buckeyes to back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances. So, we know that coaches can be dumb, especially when it comes to quarterback decisions.
But we don’t need to go down to Georgia to see how a QB battle can mess with the mind of even Hall of Fame coaches. Following the aforementioned 2014 national title, with Barrett again healthy and Jones returning to Columbus despite flirting with the NFL (you should have taken the money and ran Cardale), Urban Meyer seemed paralyzed by the decision of who should start at quarterback for all of spring practice, fall camp, and even into the season.
Cardale opened the year behind center, but eventually gave way to J.T. Now, who’s to say whether or not having a single voice as the offensive leader from Day 1 would have resulted in a different outcome in that monstrously disappointing campaign, but it sure didn’t help to see the Buckeye coaching staff flail wildly throughout a process that needed a confident, steady hand.
So, again, coaches are just as likely as players to completely bungle quarterback battles. But, I have faith in Day to make the right decision. He was a quarterback, so he knows what the eventual starter — as well as the backups — will need, both mentally and in terms of preparation. I have confidence that he will do what is necessary to give all three the best opportunities to succeed.
Day has also spent his entire career coaching quarterbacks at the college and NFL levels. So, he knows what he needs his starting quarterback to learn and accomplish by certain dates. He knows how many reps he wants his starter to have with the first team by the time Week 1 rolls around. He likely already has mapped out what parts of the offense he plans on installing each week between now and September, and all of that is contingent on when he finalizes who will be QB1.
Not to mention that Day has had a pretty decent amount of success with signal-callers during his previous four seasons in Columbus. From Barrett to Dwayne Haskins to Fields, Day has worked with three very different quarterbacks and gotten the most that he possibly could out of them.
The thing is, whomever ends up starting for Ohio State is going to be a first-year starter attempting his first collegiate pass in the opener. It’s not going to be smooth and/or easy. However, I feel confident that whichever QB is eventually named the starter — be it Stroud, Miller, or McCord — that he’s going to have the talent and mental fortitude to handle the job and that the coaches will not only have selected the right guy for the job, but will also do everything necessary to have him prepared for the opener.
So, knowing all that, I see no reason to worry about the future of Ohio State’s quarterback position — at least not until we see them take the field in the fall. So I’m just going to sit back, drink some lemonade, and give myself an ulcer contemplating how horrific the defensive backs could be this fall if Kerry Coombs doesn’t get something figured out and soon.