C.J. Stroud is entering his second year as Ohio State’s starting quarterback after a strong statistical first season for the Buckeyes. Despite the questions surrounding Stroud in the early parts of the season, the young quarterback out of Rancho Cucamonga High School was able to show the world his talents. This offseason he is the definitive incumbent, and with this status comes much higher expectations heading into his second year as well as his draft eligibility.
Since Ryan Day has joined the Ohio State program in 2017, he’s only had two years with one quarterback so far in Justin Fields. Fields improved as a passer even with the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this should give fans a lot of confidence with Stroud entering a full offseason as the starter. With that being said Ryan Day shared his thoughts on Stroud entering his second year in an interview on the 97.1: The Fan.
“He’s got a bullseye on his chest. So he’s gonna have to bring it right from the jump, and there’s a lot that comes with that.”
The pressure is on for Stroud, and historically Ohio State quarterbacks in year two for the Buckeyes have netted mixed results. Since the year 2000, Ohio State has had eight starting quarterbacks start in at least two season openers for the Buckeyes. With that in common, all eight have shared different levels of success, and we’re going to take a look at the ranges.
Belissari had an up and down career for the Buckeyes as the starter and is not remembered as fondly as some of the other quarterbacks on this list. With his second season as the full time starter coming in his final season, the Buckeyes were looking for Bellisari to help lead the offense like we had seen at the time with his predecessor Joe Germaine.
John Cooper was coming off 6-6 season when Bellisari earned the full time role as the quarterback, and the Buckeyes improved to 8-4 with Bellisari at the helm. Bellisari was not the prolific passer we’ve seen with his 13 touchdown to 13 interception ratio and 120.9 passer rating. The following season, Bellisari was more tumultuous with his suspension that closed out his career for the Buckeyes, but his passer rating improved to 133.4 — a respectable number for a starting quarterback.
Bellisari’s second season was not much different than his first as the starter because there really wasn’t that much of an improvement from the previous year.
Steve Bellisari Career Stats
In 2002, Jim Tressel was coming off his first season after fulfilling the promise of beating arch rival Michigan. With an incredible defense in place, Tressel needed a quarterback who was going to lead the offense and not be a detriment to the defense. Krenzel played to his strengths in 2002 and had moments like “Holy Buckeye” along the way to leading the Buckeyes to a national title.
In his first season as a starter, winning a national championship overshadows almost every player in this group, but he also had his most efficient season with a 140.9 passer rating. 58.4 completion percentage, and 8.5 yards per attempt. The following season, Krenzel took a few steps back with his accuracy and the Buckeyes had less success without the defense from the previous year. In the 2003 season, Krenzel was the quarterback for Tressel’s only loss to Michigan, but the Buckeyes went 11-2 with a bowl win, which would not be enough in this upcoming season.
Craig Krenzel Career Stats
The product from Massilon Washington HS (Massillon, OH) was coined as the next great Ohio quarterback prospect to lead the Buckeyes. Being from the in-state power raised his profile as the quarterback who can bring the Buckeyes their next title. In his first year as the starter, he split time with Troy Smith after an injury against Iowa, which allowed Smith establish himself as a potential future option.
Zwick had a 52.5% completion percentage as a passer in his first year as a starter, and after being relieved for his injury had the opportunity to step up in the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State. After that strong performance, he was the season opening starter and ended losing his job to Troy Smith in the matchup against Texas. After the keys were handed off to Smith, Zwick finished his career with spot reps. The Buckeyes ended up playing for a national title under Smith, and Zwick was left with mop up duty with little improvement on the per pass numbers.
Justin Zwick Career Stats
The Buckeyes had a run of solid quarterbacks, but Boeckman is sandwiched historically between a Heisman Winner in Troy Smith and one of the most electric players in school history in Terrelle Pryor. Boeckman was no slouch though, playing for a national title as the starter in 2008 and giving the Buckeyes back to back opportunities to lay claim to the BCS National Championship trophy.
Boeckman was solid in his first season as the starter with a 63.9% completion percentage and 25 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Boeckman, after some underwhelming starts in the 2008 season, the Buckeyes moved on to the galactico recruit in Pryor. After handing the keys off, Boeckman is added to the list of a starter to lose his job in his second opportunity to be a full time starter and was also moved to mop up duty.
Todd Boeckman Career Stats
For the Ohio State, Pryor was a three-year starter after replacing Boeckman for the Buckeyes. Pryor came in as a raw passer, but the physical gifts were visible immediately. Pryor did not improve his passer rating, yards per attempt, or completion percentage with increased responsibility in his second year. However, what Pryor did do was become a more well rounded passer in each season.
In his second year – and first as the full time starter – he threw for 2,094 yards and had a passer rating of 128.9, giving him some respectable numbers. This was improved upon in his final season, which is the path that Ohio State fans are hoping for with Stroud. Pryor was also a dangerous running threat, and this unleashed a whole new variety of Tressel ball on opposing defenses.
Terrelle Pryor Career Stats
After Pryor’s career ended on a negative note with the NCAA violations, the Buckeyes had Joe Bauserman step in. With no fond memories there, we won’t spend long getting to the next guy, which is exactly what Luke Fickell did when he handed the keys over to Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes disappointed that season in light of NCAA sanctions coming, but the fans were treated to a special athlete in Miller in that one season.
Miller started his career off using his legs, but when he came into his first season as the starter you can see his offseason work pay off with tons of improvement in the passing department. In his second season as the full time starter, Miller improved again with his most efficient season as a passer with 2,094 yards, 24 touchdowns, and a 158.1 passer rating, which paved the way to him becoming one of the only players to average 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. This unfortunately ended up being his final season as a quarterback, but before his shoulder injury, Miller showed that even high level quarterbacks can take steps forward.
Braxton Miller Career Stats
After Miller’s fall camp injury in 2014, J.T. Barrett earned the starting job and excelled immediately, leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title game. After injuring his leg in the season finale against Michigan, the rest of that season is etched in college football lure with third string quarterback Cardale Jones leading the Buckeyes to three straight victories to claim a national title. The following season this led to Barrett and Jones splitting time.
Barrett’s second season he did not begin the year as the starting quarterback, and his efficiency was not on the same level as his freshman season. Part of this was due to the coaching change and coming back from injury. In his second full season as the starter — his junior season — Barrett still couldn’t recapture the level he played at his freshman year. Even with his numbers not being at that same elite level, Barrett still led the Buckeyes to the playoffs.
In his final season, Barrett finally reached the level he started at and was able to play some high level quarterback to close out his career, but as we can see once again second year starters are not guaranteed to improve.
J.T. Barrett Career Stats
Ryan Day’s first hand picked quarterback and arguably the most talented in school history in Justin Fields was a prolific two year starter. After transferring from Georgia, Fields became the Buckeyes starter immediately and never looked back. In his first season as the Buckeyes’ starter he threw for 41 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He also averaged 9.2 yards per attempt to go with his 181.4 passer rating.
This prolific start to his career was the start to something special, and with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic aligning with Fields’ second year as a starter, he still played at an incredibly high level. In only eight games, Fields improved both in yards per attempt and completion percentage. His touchdown to interception ratio was not as good, however, and his passer rating dropped five points. Expectations were high for Fields and he met them, but it shows how challenging it is to improve in year two as a signal caller with all eyes on you.
Ryan Day said it himself: there is a lot that goes into being an elite quarterback right out of the gate, and with a quick look at history, a lot of Ohio State quarterbacks have not been up to the challenge in their second seasons as starters. If Stroud wants his legacy to be at the forefront of the minds of the Buckeye faithful, he can’t stay stagnate even with his already incredible numbers. If Stroud doesn’t improve and isn’t able to start out strong against Notre Dame, anything he does statistically will be less important.
There are no guarantees that Stroud will improve, but from everything coming out of the football facility he is doing everything he can to prove that year one wasn’t a fluke. With losing to Michigan and not making the Big Ten title game, Stroud will have his detractors. For him, the only way to get rid of them is to improve on his first season as a starter and not fall into the pattern we’ve seen with incumbent starters for the Buckeyes.
As we’ve seen with Bellisari, Zwick, and Boeckman, being the incumbent doesn’t guraantee anything in regards to success. We saw how the eight quarterbacks who started multiple seasons differed statistically. For a lot of these quarterbacks, year two has defined legacies.
Stroud will look to make sure his name goes into the history books like his predecessor Fields. For Stroud, time will tell which side of history he falls on, but under Ryan Day there should be confidence that he will take his game to another level.