Stroud? Miller? McCord? As spring practice starts, Ohio State's quarterback battle begins

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Jack Miller (9) and C.J. Stroud (7) will compete with true freshman Kyle McCord for Ohio State's starting quarterback job.

Ryan Day spoke to reporters for 40 minutes on Wednesday.

The Ohio State football coach did not refer by name to any of the three players who'll battle to succeed Justin Fields at quarterback.

With Fields off to the NFL, redshirt freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller will compete with true freshman Kyle McCord for the position.

Ohio State football: The big questions heading into spring practice

Deliberate or not, Day not saying their names could be a sign of just how wide open the competition is as spring practice starts Friday and that no one should be perceived to be the leader.

“I don’t think anything has stood out yet because we just haven’t been on the field,” Day said.

Last spring, the Buckeyes got in only a couple of practices before the pandemic shut everything down. This year, the expectation is for a full spring, though with COVID-19 precautions.

Day said the practice reps will be divided as equally as possible among the quarterbacks. He said the spring roster is at about 112 players.

“That’s a big number, so we’re going to be able to get a lot of reps in the spring, which is really exciting,” Day said. “There are a lot of times we’re going to be able to get three groups going. We’re three, four, even five deep at some positions right now.”

The quarterback competition won’t be the only intense one during spring. The interior of the offense line, running backs, linebackers and secondary are among other position battles that also will get plenty of focus.

But quarterback is the headliner. Neither Stroud nor Miller threw a pass in limited mop-up duty last year. McCord, a five-star recruit, enrolled in January. There’s no hurry to anoint a starter, even if the battle extends into preseason camp.

Ohio State football: COVID-19 vaccinations will not be mandatory for players

“We’ll know when the time is right,” Day said. “They all have a lot of learning to do. They haven’t had a lot of snaps.

“And to be fair, they have needed to spend some time in this offense learning, and then as we start to get them in game situations through the spring and through preseason, we’ll have a better idea.”

Day played quarterback, and that’s been his primary position group during his coaching career. He said he has already met with his quarterbacks to prepare them for what’s ahead.

Day said it’s important for them not to get too consumed by their status in the competition, however hard that will be. The key, he told them, is to immerse themselves in the process of improving every day and understand that a quarterback must earn trust among teammates and coaches.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day says the key to his quarterback competition is “anticipating what’s going on on defense as opposed to reacting." Here, C.J. Stroud runs the ball against Michigan State on Dec. 5.

“When you have that credibility and you do things the right way, then all of a sudden, guys will start to follow you, because being a leader is the No. 1 job of a quarterback,” Day said. “That's hard to do when you're young if you don't do things the right way and create that great standard.”

Day knows that growing pains will be part of the process. He doesn't want them making the same mistakes repeatedly and to be able to anticipate situations before they happen.

“How quickly can you have the answers to the test?” Day said. “We can’t in a meeting go through every single scenario that a quarterback would encounter.”

He said that NFL stars such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees flourished because of their discipline and ability to think of solutions to possible problems in advance.

“I think anticipating what’s going on on defense as opposed to reacting is the key to quarterback play,” Day said. “Those are the things we’re going to be looking for. It’s not going to happen in one day. But as long as we see a gradual movement toward those things, that’ll be a sign that things are going well.”