Ohio State football solidifies quarterback position with signings

Joey Kaufman
CJ Stroud of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., turned in an impressive showing at an elite quarterbacks camp. [Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise]

The realization of a second quarterback in Ohio State's signing class for 2020 began in July.

After the Opening Finals, a four-day camp for top high school prospects in Frisco, Texas, Buckeyes coaches heard rave reviews about C.J. Stroud.

They came from their commitments. Those who participated in the camp offered praise regarding Stroud, a quarterback from Rancho Cucamonga, California. It was enough that it put him on the Buckeyes' radar. Stroud had also been named MVP of the Elite 11 quarterback competition, held in conjunction with the Opening Finals.

“Up until then, he was kind of an unknown,” coach Ryan Day said. “We were looking at a lot of different quarterbacks out there and trying to figure out what was the right fit.”

The Buckeyes hoped they could pair a second quarterback with Jack Miller, who had been committed for more than a year. Though Miller was talented, a four-star recruit from Scottsdale, Arizona, they needed depth in their quarterback room with only two scholarship quarterbacks set to return in 2020, well shy of Day's preference of four.

“To go win championships,” Day said, “you have to have depth at that position.”

Stroud soon emerged as a top target.

In October, quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich formally extended him a scholarship offer after watching him at a practice in person. Then on Wednesday, hours after Miller signed his letter of intent, Stroud followed suit.

Stroud's signing came after he revealed his decision in a ceremony on ESPNU at his high school. The other finalists included Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and Southern California.

Soon after donning a black “Block O” hat for Ohio State, Stroud said he had been swayed by Day's track record with quarterbacks. Justin Fields finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in his first season as a starter this year, as Dwayne Haskins Jr. did last year.

“I feel like Ohio State is definitely putting out the best quarterbacks and getting them ready for the NFL,” Stroud said. “That's definitely something I want to do in the future. I just feel like I can be the best dude for it.”

Despite the pedigree, quarterbacks are rarely signed in tandem, largely because of concerns over playing time.

Receivers coach Brian Hartline even marveled at the development when he spoke with reporters.

“That's unheard of,” he said.

The Buckeyes last brought in multiple quarterbacks in a class in 2015, when they signed Joe Burrow and Torrance Gibson. Both ultimately transferred: Gibson after he was moved to receiver and Burrow after he was unable to overtake Haskins on the depth chart. Burrow went to LSU, where he won the Heisman Trophy last week.

As for the incoming quarterbacks, Stroud is ranked higher, sixth at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings. Miller was 25th. Both are considered pro-style passers. Stroud had been the highest-ranked uncommitted quarterback.

“Kind of different stories,” Day said, “but I think both are really excited to come in here and go fight for playing time.”

Day said it is a “little bit unfair” to expect either to challenge for a starting job with Fields set to return, but both are candidates to serve as his backup, along with Gunnar Hoak, who is to return for his fifth season. Current backup Chris Chugunov departs after this season.

As the Buckeyes completed the balancing act of signing two quarterbacks, Day credited Miller as he was “loyal from the get-go.” But they also grew impressed with Stroud after the Opening Finals. Stroud said Day remained “in awe of my leadership skills.”

“He just handles himself the right way,” Day said. “He looks you in the eye, he shakes your hand. I think you're talking about somebody who was raised the right way, and he's got a lot of respect and makes great decisions.”


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