After stellar prep career, McCord ready to challenge for Ohio State quarterback job

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra

Editor’s note: The is the second in a series of three stories looking at Ohio State's offseason quarterback competition to replace Justin Fields. Part 1: Jack Miller. Part 3: C.J. Stroud.

In a normal year, the arrival of a five-star quarterback at Ohio State when the position is open for the taking would have Buckeye fans breathless about the new kid.

Yet the buzz about Kyle McCord, who enrolled in January, is somewhat muted.

Ohio State freshman quarterback Kyle McCord won three state championships and twice was named Pennsylvania player of the year at St. Joseph's Prep.

Nothing against McCord, mind you. It’s just that C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller arrived last year and as a result are perceived by outsiders to have a leg up. Factor in that quarterback Quinn Ewers, the top overall player in the 2022 recruiting class, has committed to Ohio State, and, well, McCord has become slightly overshadowed as the Buckeyes open spring practice Friday.

Those who know him well, though, say it would be a mistake to discount McCord’s chances. They say that McCord has the talent, the background, and the intelligence to become the Ohio State starter this year.

They also say McCord has the maturity to be unfazed by the talk about competition, to be content to grind every day and let the chips fall where they may.

Kyle McCord's development

McCord was the 27th-ranked overall prospect in 247sports.com’s composite 2021 rankings and the No. 3 pro-style quarterback. McCord was a three-year starter on a team that won three state titles in Pennsylvania’s largest classification at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s Prep, an elite school academically as well as athletically.

Ohio State football:Who replaces Justin Fields at quarterback? That's one of the big questions heading into spring practice

He was the state’s player of the year in his sophomore and senior seasons. An injury caused him to miss the end of his junior season.

At high school powerhouse St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia, quarterback Kyle McCord (6) often threw to receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (8), another Ohio State recruit.

As a senior, he completed 99 of 153 passes for 1,582 yards and 21 touchdowns in a six-game season shortened by COVID-19. He also excelled in the classroom, carrying a 3.5 grade-point average.

“He’s a happy-go-lucky kid, always has a smile on his face,” St. Joseph’s coach Tim Roken said. “But when it comes to practice or the game he obviously loves, he's very serious. He takes his preparation very seriously.”

McCord’s father, Derek, played quarterback at Rutgers. By his own admission, the elder McCord didn’t devote himself as thoroughly to his football craft as he should have. Kyle does.

The physical talent was evident early. Derek remembers Kyle playing in a league as a sixth-grader competing against eighth-graders and being the best quarterback. It also helped Kyle to have an older brother, Cole, who did his share of “big-brothering” that instilled toughness.

Two years ago, Derek got a call from Phil Simms, the former New York Giants star, who now trains quarterbacks with his son Matt, a former NFL backup. They offered to work with Kyle.

Matt Simms gushed about McCord, saying he is in the “upper echelon” in terms of accuracy, arm strength and touch. Simms and his father also worked with McCord on his mechanics so he could throw consistently without developing a sore arm and on improving his passing from outside the pocket.

'Kyle McCord is stoic, calm, cool and collected'

But what impresses Matt Simms the most about McCord is his approach.

“Kyle McCord is stoic, calm, cool and collected, almost the perfect temperament to be a great quarterback,” he said. “He’s constantly stacking days of working hard, and he’s never too low or too high. He is just the consummate pro all the time.”

McCord is known as a pocket passer and won’t be confused for Justin Fields as a runner. But it’s inaccurate to say he’s immobile.

“He has the awareness back there and the strength to be able to shake loose and the escape ability to get outside of the pocket and hurt somebody downfield or keep people honest with his legs,” Roken said. “He’s not going to claim to be that 4.4 or 4.5 guy, but he can take off for 5-6 yards or go get the first down.”

How Kyle McCord fits in Ryan Day's offense

Besides, Ryan Day’s offense isn’t Urban Meyer’s. Running ability is certainly a plus, but it’s not the integral part of the scheme the way it was with J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller.

McCord’s intelligence and diligence should help him close the gap he has with Stroud and Miller in terms of knowing Ohio State’s offense. It’s not as if the other two had a normal year in 2020. Spring practice lasted only a few days before COVID shut it down and they went back home, to the West Coast. Ohio State played only eight games and Fields took almost all the snaps.

Meanwhile, McCord faced live competition at a top level in high school. Derek McCord said his son has made a smooth transition to college so far.

“He’s extremely focused, extremely driven, very mature beyond his years,” he said. “He’s not the type of kid that wants to go out and be in the limelight. He doesn’t get caught up in social media or anything like that. He doesn’t really care about the attention from a media standpoint.

“He’s just competitive and wants to be the best he can every day and focuses on getting better every day to put himself in a position to get on that field.”

Get more Ohio State football news by listening to our podcasts

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch