Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Who will replace C.J. Stroud as Ohio State’s quarterback?
Jami’s Take: Kyle McCord
When C.J. Stroud declared for the 2023 NFL Draft on Monday, the Buckeyes’ first battle for next season became choosing QB1.
Stroud’s shoes won’t be easy to fill. A team leader who threw for 8,123 yards and 85 touchdowns in his time as a Buckeye, Stroud set 16 Ohio State records for passing or offense, three Big Ten records, and he was the first quarterback in conference history to have back-to-back seasons with 30+ touchdown passes. These stats led him to be named a two-time Big Ten Conference offensive player of the year and quarterback of the year, along with being the only two-time Heisman finalist in Ohio State history (Finalists weren’t named prior to 1982).
For Kyle McCord, the wait to compete for the starting job has been particularly grueling. Now, his time has come to show Buckeye Nation what he is truly capable of.
McCord came into the program a five-star recruit with the 2021 class with a stronger recruiting profile than Stroud. But stats aren’t everything, as Stroud won the starting spot over McCord when it came time to choose Justin Fields’ replacement.
But McCord isn’t completely without experience at the collegiate level – he is currently the most experienced quarterback on the Buckeyes’ roster. And experience can be a game-changer when it comes to high-stakes games.
McCord, by his own admission, is still working on his leadership skills, so that’s not to say his experience will be enough to win him the starting job, but it should certainly be a factor, especially considering he is the only quarterback to have started in place of Stroud during Stroud’s time as QB1.
McCord made his debut as a true freshman (one of only four in program history to do so) in 2021 with a 59-7 victory over Akron when Stroud was battling a shoulder injury. While he was a little shaky to start, he did eventually settle in, throwing for 319 yards and two touchdowns.
Now listen, I’m not delusional enough to state with certainty that one starting win against Akron of all teams qualifies someone to follow Stroud as the starter. McCord wasn’t perfect in that game by any means, even ending his night with an interception. He has a tendency to throw off his back foot, which could interfere with his accuracy. And though McCord has taken snaps in other games, we haven’t really seen the breadth of what he can do when captaining the ship against ranked opponents like Michigan.
There is a plus side to that win though – his messy moments were fixable, and the coaches were able to start working on them back in 2021.
So this gives McCord the advantage of far more reps than his competition Devin Brown. In fact, it makes McCord more experienced than Stroud was when he was named the starter.
McCord’s experience with Buckeye playmakers actually extends beyond his collegiate career. He and Marvin Harrison Jr. played together in high school, giving him the added benefit of established chemistry with one of the Buckeyes’ star receivers.
When you consider the elements that create a star turn for quarterbacks, it goes beyond the Xs and Os. An accurate arm is just part of what it takes to excel with an elite program (which is to say nothing of excelling in the pros), and McCord has proven his patience and work ethic over the last two seasons, in addition to having the technical skills.
For example, McCord could bring some added rushing ability to the quarterback position, a nice change of pace after Stroud’s two years of being mostly a pocket player. McCord has shown that he is capable of throwing accurately on the run or rushing to pick up a few extra yards, both elements the Buckeyes have been lacking in the last two years.
After keeping his head down and biding his time, McCord’s patience and experience should pay off come this fall.
Matt’s Take: Devin Brown
If I’m being honest, I recognize that McCord is the most likely candidate to take over behind center for the Buckeyes in the fall. He has more time in the program, he was a five-star prospect, he has the longstanding relationship with Marvin Harrison Jr. and everything else that Jami talked about above.
But here’s the thing that has me hung up, despite starting a game in 2021 while Stroud was dealing with a shoulder injury, he only threw a total of 20 passes in 2022. Now, I know that Ryan Day is frustratingly hesitant to let his offensive backups cook late in games for fear of embarrassing his opponents. I also know that he essentially did the same thing to C.J. when he was the heir apparent behind Justin Fields, but that was in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and Day said he regretted how he handled that situation.
Of course, that very well could just be coach speak, because Day basically didn’t change a damn thing in what he had to assume would be Stroud’s final season in Columbus (despite the fact that he waited to declare until nearly the last possible second). So either Day didn’t follow his own advice in handling his backup QB this season, lied about regretting it in the first place, or he wasn’t comfortable with running McCord out there.
Kyle’s numbers were good — 16 for 20 (80%), 9.5 yards per attempt, 1 touchdown — but he was mostly doing check downs and almost never got a chance to run anything even resembling the actual Ohio State offense, and that makes me curious. It could just be Day’s fear of rubbing it in, or it could be that he doesn’t think McCord is ready.
So, if Kyle wasn’t ready in Year 2, is it better to run him out there in Year 3, or give the younger player the chance to start in his sophomore season? Brown was also a top-50 prospect, but he seemingly has something that McCord doesn’t, but Buckeye fans have been dying to see more of... elite running ability. While he doesn’t have Terrelle Pryor or Justin Fields athleticism, reports from Buckeye practices this season have made it sound like Brown might have an extra gear that could come in handy for a first-time starter playing behind a rebuilt offensive line.
We know that under Day, Buckeye quarterbacks have been hesitant to run the ball, but this fall could be the perfect opportunity to change that narrative with a willing runner who might be scrambling for his life more than other recent OSU QBs.
I imagine that Ryan Day will play this out as long as possible in an effort to maintain his roster and not give either quarterback reason to leave before the season (for the record, if McCord is the starter, I don’t expect Brown to transfer), but given the fact that Day actively avoided getting McCord any actual experience this past season and the athletic advantages that Brown can bring to the offense, I would not be shocked if he ended up being the guy when the Buckeyes opened the season in Bloomington, Ind.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: Kyle McCord
Matt: Devin Brown