'It was ridiculous.' Dismissing transfer speculation, OSU QB Kyle McCord takes long view
Ohio State’s other two scholarship backup quarterbacks transferred.
Even the two Buckeye walk-ons left for other schools.
No one would have blamed Kyle McCord if he’d exited as well. Five-star quarterbacks aren’t known to have patience in this era of instant transfers in college football.
With C.J. Stroud firmly entrenched as the Ohio State starter after being a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2021, McCord could have gone elsewhere and found a starting job this year.
That’s what Quinn Ewers is attempting to do at Texas and Jack Miller at Florida. McCord, a sophomore from Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s Prep, said he never flirted with leaving, even though speculation that he would was rampant and flooded his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
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“Yeah, it was ridiculous because during that time I could barely even go on social media just because people would tag me and send me whatever,” McCord said. “But I think it definitely helped me kind of block everything out. It's a skill I think I acquired, just kind of blocking everything out and focusing on what's important.”
To McCord, what was important was taking the long view. Stroud is likely headed to the NFL after the 2022 season.
“I think it’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint,” McCord said. “Looking at it from the bigger picture, I think coming here, you realize how well you're coached by coach (Ryan) Day, (quarterbacks) coach (Corey) Dennis, (offensive analyst) coach (Todd) Fitch. That was really important to me."
What Kyle McCord did for the Buckeyes in 2021
McCord played in five games last year, including the Akron game as a starter when Stroud rested an ailing shoulder. McCord looked shaky at times against the Zips, but he completed 13 of 18 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns in the 59-7 rout.
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“I think that game was a great learning experience because you can practice and watch film all you want, but nothing is like the real deal when you step out there on the field,” he said. “The amount I learned starting one game, it's ridiculous. That was just a great stepping-stone helping me develop faster and just learn the overall game.
McCord said he’s not the same player he was then, describing it as “night and day.” He said the biggest jump came during Ohio State’s bowl preparation for the Rose Bowl. Stroud missed some practices when he went to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, and McCord got the first- and second-team reps with Ewers and Miller having entered the transfer portal.
The growth has continued this year.
“I think he's had a good spring,” Day said. “You guys saw some of the balls he threw (in Saturday’s student appreciation practice) and having the whole year under his belt now, he's that much better.
“He's competitive. He wants to be at Ohio State, and he's made that clear. He’s going to be ready in that first game, if (we) need him to be in that game. When you feel like you're the backup, sometimes you feel like you're miles away. But you're only one snap away. I think he understands that, and he understands what it means to get developed, and that's what his focus has been on.”
What the Ohio State quarterback depth chart looks like in 2022
McCord is the clear No. 2 now, but five-star freshman Devin Brown is also here. The Buckeyes like what they’ve seen from him. As Brown learns the offense, the competition to be Stroud’s backup — and front-runner for next year — will intensify.
But at least there’s clarity, unlike the uncertainty with the pecking order last year.
“There's still a long way to go from now until next year, so I'm just focused on the present,” McCord said. “But when you look at the long-term picture, I guess you could say it cleared itself up.”
Last year, the quarterbacks said the relationships in their room remained strong even with the competition. The same applies now.
“It's awesome,” McCord said. “Coming in, it was me, C.J. and Jack, and you had Quinn in the mix. Now it's me, C.J. and Devin. I think it's been really cool to compete against some of the best guys in the country. I think we all feed off of each other, so it's been really good.”
“I love this room,” he said. “Me and Kyle are really close. Me and C.J are really close. There's no hatred for anybody. Everybody loves each other, and everybody wants the best for each other. It's a really cool environment, and it's so cool to learn from each one of them.”
With all the speculation surrounding his future, McCord said he’s most proud of the resilience he’s shown. He kept his focus on the present and didn’t pursue instant gratification.
“With the transfer portal,” he said, “if something isn't going the way a guy expected it to, fans and even the player might think, ‘I can just put my name in the portal and change a situation like that.’
“But I think you just have to see the bigger picture. What more could I want, being at a school like this getting coached by the best coaches in the world? So I didn't really even think about it at all, to be honest. Do I want to play this year? Of course. But I think you’ve got to look at it from a long-term perspective.”
Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @brdispatch.