SPORTS

Ohio State football spring practice preview: Quarterbacks

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Editor's note: In advance of next week's start of spring practice at Ohio State, The Dispatch is previewing each of the Buckeyes’ position groups.

Quarterback is no longer the most pressing issue on the roster.

Instead of a three-way competition hovering over 15 practices in March and April, the Buckeyes are settled behind center.

C.J. Stroud, who prevailed in the position battle last offseason before taking control of the offense and becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist, is back as a redshirt sophomore.

His spring camp will be spent building upon his impressive debut season as a starter rather than trying to beat out fellow underclassmen.

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Sat., Jan. 1, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud celebrates following the Buckeyes’ 48-45 victory against the Utah Utes in the 108th Rose Bowl Game.

Behind him on the depth chart is a different mix of passers. Quinn Ewers and Jack Miller, each spending time last fall as the third-string quarterback, transferred in December to Texas and Florida, respectively. Veteran walk-ons JP Andrade and Jagger LaRoe also left after the Rose Bowl.

Sophomore Kyle McCord is the only other returning scholarship quarterback.

Scholarship Count

3: Stroud, McCord and Devin Brown

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Kyle McCord (6) runs toward Michigan State Spartans safety Darius Snow (23) during the third quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Top competition

Backup quarterback. McCord is well positioned to continue backing up Stroud, holding more experience than Devin Brown, one of the 11 freshmen who enrolled a semester early in order to participate in spring practice. McCord, a New Jersey native, was No. 2 on the depth chart throughout last season and started against Akron when Stroud needed to rest his separated right throwing shoulder. McCord also ran the first-team offense in bowl practices while Stroud was in New York for the Heisman ceremony. But Brown was a fast-rising recruit, a former composite top-50 prospect who could still push for the role. Coach Ryan Day’s comments will likely be parsed. Be forewarned. He’s often kept backup quarterback competitions unsettled in the past and avoided formally naming a backup.

Football recruit Devin Brown, a quarterback from Corner Canyon High School in Utah, walks onto the field prior to Ohio State's game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Player to watch

Stroud. It’s rare for Day to work with the same starting quarterback in consecutive offseasons. When Justin Fields returned for his second season with the Buckeyes in 2020, it marked the first time in Day’s coaching career that he been given such an opportunity. But the onset of the coronavirus pandemic scrapped most of spring practice and disrupted the rest of the offseason, including delaying the season. Now he’ll get that chance with Stroud, and it’ll be worth watching how the extra tutelage from the former quarterbacks coach could pay dividends. Stroud is well positioned to take another step in his development.

Key Stat

186.6: Pass efficiency rating for Stroud in 2021, breaking a single-season program record. It was the third time in four seasons that the record fell.

Dublin Coffman QB Mason Maggs throws a pass during a game at Olentangy Orange, in Lewis Center, Ohio, on October 1, 2021.  The visiting Shamrocks beat the Pioneers 34-28 in 2OT.

Final thought

Workload management figures to get some extra consideration this spring with the Buckeyes thinner on depth. At this time last year, they had five quarterbacks on the roster. They’re now down to three. Dublin Coffman quarterback Mason Maggs committed as a preferred walk-on in January and will add a fourth to the room, but he doesn’t enroll until the summer. For as much as the development of Stroud, McCord and Brown will be a focus for the staff, keeping them fresh is important, too.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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