When a college team returns a Heisman Trophy finalist at quarterback — a guy who completed 72% of his passes, threw for over 4400 yards, and hit on 44 passing touchdowns — asking about potential trouble at the position seems absurd. C.J. Stroud is back for 2022, and he’s the best QB in the college game today. So, what’s the problem?
Well, with 2021 backup quarterbacks Jack Miller III and Quinn Ewers transferring, the problem might be depth.
The quarterbacks in 2021
As Ohio State began last season, the issue at quarterback wasn’t depth. It was inexperience across the board of those competing for the starting job. Four scholarship QBs were on the roster: two red-shirt freshmen, Stroud and Miller, and two true freshmen, Kyle McCord and Ewers. Obviously, Ewers, who was still in high school and didn’t participate in spring practice, wasn’t in the running for the starting role. But the other three? They were going at it.
Both Stroud and McCord looked great in the spring game, but it gradually became clear that Stroud would start, and McCord would be his backup.
The quarterbacks in 2022
We know all about Stroud’s season, but McCord looked good too. He started against Akron, the Buckeyes’ third game last year. McCord completed 13 of his 18 passes in the game for 319 yards, averaging a whopping 17.7 yards per passing attempt. In the first quarter, McCord hit Chris Olave for a five-yard TD pass and then connected with Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the second quarter for a 34-yards touchdown. Not a bad debut for a true freshman.
At this point of the season, there were plenty of Buckeye fans who thought that McCord should be the starter. After the week off, though, Stroud came back really strong, and we were very happy with the QB situation.
After the 2021 season, Miller and Ewers were both solidly behind Stroud and McCord, so they left. Ewers has a good shot to be the starter for the Texas Longhorns this year. Miller, it appears, has lost out to Anthony Richardson in the competition for starter at Florida. But McCord stuck around, content to play another season as Stroud’s backup, waiting for his chance in 2023 to be the starter. He’ll have a challenge from Devin Brown (see below), but a good season as Buckeye starter next year would give McCord the option at the end of the season to head off to the NFL or to return for a fourth season in Columbus.
I admit that I wasn’t that impressed with Brown in this year’s Buckeye spring game. He didn’t look nearly as sharp as did McCord in the 2021 game, or maybe even as good as Miller in that game. Nevertheless, coaches seem more than satisfied with the practices that Brown has put in with the Bucks so far.
Brown hails from Arizona but transferred to Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah, to play his senior season. The four-star recruit was ranked as the No. 6 QB in the 2022 class, the 43rd best player overall (composite ranking). He had committed to Southern Cal in September 2020, but decommitted in late November of the following year, starting a short-lived flurry of recruiting activity from places like Texas and Ole Miss. And Ohio State. Despite still having those four quarterbacks on the roster, Ryan Day probably knew that he was unlikely to keep them all and was happy to sign Brown, another potential star.
Reports from recruiting analysts all stress Brown’s arm strength and sound mechanics, his quick release and the zip on his passes. The one criticism revolved around his touch — the ability to drop a pass in there, especially in a tight spot. We saw that issue in the spring game, as I recall. More reps in practice, more practices under the expert eyes of Day and quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis, and I’m sure that Brown will be ready. Expect him to get some time in the Arkansas State game. It will be fun to see what he can do.
For 2022, then, the Buckeyes are set, and in good shape, with a starter and backup. Devin Brown has great potential, in the third slot, but lacks experience. Although the Buckeyes have a couple of walk-on QBs on the roster – Mason Maggs and Chad Ray – let’s hope that there aren’t any injuries to the three scholarship players. The Bucks need them all to be healthy.
We all expect Stroud to announce for the NFL Draft after this season. I expect both McCord and Brown to stick around until after spring practice, after the spring game. The one who is not the starter might opt, at that point, to try the transfer portal. It’s very difficult to keep a full stable of blue-chip quarterbacks. They all want to play, to start, to make a name for themselves.
It looked for a while that Ohio State wouldn’t get a commitment from a QB for the 2023 class. With No. 1 quarterback and No. 1 overall player in the 2024 class, Dylan Raiola, already committed to OSU, it’s a hard sell to bring someone in from the recruiting class ahead of him – especially with players the caliber of McCord and Brown already settled in. But Day now has a 2023 commitment from Brock Glenn, a Memphis native and the 335th-ranked player in the class overall. Should either McCord or Brown decide to depart, Glenn might find himself suddenly in the backup role. Or, more likely maybe, Day may look to see whom he can bring in as a transfer.
With Ryan Day’s success at producing NFL-quality QBs, every first-rate high school passer has to consider the Bucks. They shouldn’t have any trouble landing great ones. The trouble comes in keeping them happy – and keeping them on the roster. Today’s climate and today’s rules simply aren’t conducive to having three, or even four, blue-chippers on the roster at quarterback. Consequently, there’s always going to be a bit of a depth issue. Welcome to the new era.