Ohio State‘s two newest quarterbacks engage in friendly competition

Joey Kaufman
Freshman Jack Miller had no problem with Ohio State recruiting another quarterback in his class. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

Ohio State’s pursuit of a quarterback in its recruiting class for 2020 began in suburban Phoenix.

In the spring of 2018, the Buckeyes offered a scholarship to Jack Miller, a four-star recruit from Scottsdale, Arizona. Months later, he announced his commitment.

Amid the retirement of Urban Meyer and transition to Ryan Day as coach, Miller remained in the fold. But last fall, after some attrition at quarterback, Day pursued a second recruit, a rare step. Most programs shy away from bringing in two in one class because their eligibility overlaps.

Depth issues overtook that concern for the Buckeyes.

“I was aware of everybody who they were talking to in my grade and really anybody else,” Miller said this week. “They were super good at communicating with me about everything that was going on.”

The Buckeyes ultimately signed C.J. Stroud, adding another blue-chip recruit whose profile ascended after he was named MVP of last summer‘s Elite 11 passing competition, a premier event for the nation’s top high school quarterbacks.

Stroud is from Rancho Cucamonga, California, and was swayed enough by Day’s offensive pedigree that he moved almost across the country.

But as they recruited others, Ohio State’s coaches told Miller to let them know if he took issue with their pursuit of a second quarterback recruit.

“I said, 'No, you can offer whoever you want,’” Miller said. “I'm not that type of guy. I mean, you bring in whoever you want, I'm gonna compete with them.”

The dynamic was perhaps overwrought.

“I never really thought it was a big deal,” Miller said. “We’re both here for the same goal. We want to win a national championship here. That’ll be the goal. Do whatever it takes. If he’s the guy, if I’m the guy, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to work our tails off for the team.”

Miller also understood how thin quarterback depth was last season when the Buckeyes carried only three on scholarship: starter Justin Fields and backups Chris Chugunov and Gunnar Hoak.

“It’s not the situation you really want, with Justin playing on eggshells and making sure that he doesn't get hurt,” Miller said. “So I feel like we're in a much better situation now.”

They will have four on scholarship next season as Miller and Stroud arrive. Chugunov, who was a senior, departs.

After enrolling early to participate in spring practice, the freshmen will vie with Hoak to back up Fields.

Both said they had struck a friendship amid this offseason’s competition, plus an inevitable one to succeed Fields in the coming years.

“We often hang out,” Stroud said. “We go out to eat all the time, and we're brothers. Me and him, we compete every day, but it's all a brotherhood and love.”

Added Miller, “It's a good balance. I'm going to be friends with all my teammates no matter what, and now obviously we're competing for the same thing, but it's a friendly competition.”

Miller will be on better footing for one reason in the coming months. He said he had made a full recovery from a shoulder separation that cost him four games during his senior season of high school.

When asked about his status, he said: “Hundred percent."