Ohio State football coach Ryan Day hopes to pick starting QB earlier in preseason camp

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Quarterback Kyle McCord  scrambles in the Ohio State spring game on April 17. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said starting quarterback candidates McCord, C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller "actually move better than most people think."

Ohio State finished spring practice last week without naming a starting quarterback, but coach Ryan Day is hopeful the competition doesn't go long into August.

On Friday, Day said it would be ideal to settle on a successor to Justin Fields earlier in the team’s preseason training camp rather than wait until the first game week.

“So they can get the majority of the reps,” Day said. “But until someone really puts themselves out in front of the other two, we’ll keep just keep going.”

For most of this offseason, Day has maintained there has been little separation between Kyle McCord, Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud, the passers who are vying to take over as the starter when the Buckeyes open their coming season at Minnesota.

During the spring game, the three of them rotated between series and took about equal snaps.

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Stroud has appeared to maintain a slight edge in the race. He ran the first-team offense during practices that were open to reporters this month. But offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said they all have shown impressive physical tools, making for a serious competition.

“Their ability to throw the football is very nice,” Wilson said, “and I think they actually move better than most people think. They're not pure dropback guys. They can extend plays. They can scramble around and make a little chicken salad when the chicken's not there. They can run a little bit of zone-read quarterback run game when you need them to run the ball.

“Even though they're not elite runners, they're athletic enough. I was impressed with their skill set of throwing, their ability to move. But they all need to play, where they can recognize coverage and distribute the ball.”

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None of the three passers has thrown a pass in a game. Stroud and Miller were backups behind Fields as freshmen last fall, while McCord was among the 15 freshmen to enroll a semester early in January to participate in spring practices.

In the months before preseason camp, Day sees it as a critical step for them to expand their understanding of the offense.

“They’re tasked with being obsessed with learning the offense,” Day said.

Other areas of development remain important over the summer months as the Buckeyes go through their strength and conditioning program, but Day emphasized the need for them to develop a deeper grasp of the system.

“Studying film, watching film, spending time in the Woody,” Day said. “The fluency of the offense, I mean, they're getting there, but they got a long way to go.”

Because last offseason’s program was condensed due to coronavirus-related shutdowns, impacting Miller and Stroud who had just joined the program in 2020, the Buckeyes spent much of spring practice focused on fundamentals.

“We're playing catch up,” Day said. “We obviously would love to have somebody that's in year two or year three. We don’t have that luxury. We've got some young guys, and they've got work to do.

“It's a race to make up for time that we don't have. We'd love to be practicing all summer. We'd love to be practicing right now. We can't do that. The only way to do that is to watch film and have these guys do work on their own.”

When Day last oversaw a quarterback competition, in 2019, he waited until mid-August before tapping Fields as the starter over Chris Chugunov and Gunnar Hoak. The decision was announced 12 days before the opener, allowing Fields to go through two weeks of practices with his spot on the depth chart secure.

As much as the competition might consume the passers, Day sees it as important for McCord, Miller and Stroud to be prepared to step into a game, not just win a position battle.

“The focus for these guys again has to be, ‘How do I get developed faster, and how do I get the most ready to play in the season faster?’” Day said. “Not trying to win the job. Because maybe sometimes that's, ‘How do I compare myself to the guy next to me?’ It's not about that. It's, 'How do I get myself ready?' Because we have to go win some really hard games this season.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman