Kyle McCord vs. Devin Brown. Ohio State's quarterback competition has officially begun
It won’t be hard to distinguish between the quarterbacks in Ohio State’s battle to succeed C.J. Stroud.
After all, you often don’t see quarterbacks who wear No. 33. That’s the uniform number second-year quarterback Devin Brown has chosen. He asked Ohio State coach Ryan Day if he could wear it as an homage to Sammie Baugh, the first quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I've always worn 33 my whole life until my sophomore year of high school,” Brown said. “The only reason I had to change was because we had a senior running back who had it.
“When I moved to Utah (as a high school senior), it still wasn't an option to go to 33. Last year, it wasn't an option. I'm so happy I get to wear it again.”
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Brown, who wore No. 15 last year, will be competing with junior Kyle McCord for the starting job.
McCord joked about not being one-upped by Brown, saying he ought to wear No. 34 instead of his No. 6
“I think it would look smooth, 33 and 34 back there,” he said.
The battle between McCord and Brown began in earnest Tuesday with the start of spring practice. Because he has one more year of experience than Brown, including a 2021 start against Akron when Stroud was injured, McCord is perceived as the favorite.
He was a five-star recruit from Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s Prep, where he was teammates with Marvin Harrison Jr. McCord threw 20 passes last year, completing 16, in mop-up duty. Brown didn’t throw any passes.
But Day has been careful not to anoint a front-runner, and according to Brown, coaches have said the reps will be split evenly.
Day said what he most wants to see from his quarterbacks is leadership.
“You have to be felt and heard,” he said, “and I did (see) that today. That was a really encouraging thing. I heard it after a good play or a bad play. It didn't matter.”
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Ohio State is loaded at wide receiver and running back. If the mostly inexperienced offensive line can develop – a huge if – whoever is at quarterback should be able to put up big numbers.
“I feel like we're going to have a great supporting cast, so the quarterback doesn't need to be superhuman,” Day said. “He just needs to do his job, make routine plays routinely, and then it'll build from there. But the No. 1 thing we're looking for is leadership and toughness.”
McCord feels becoming a leader has been a natural transition.
“When C.J. was here, you didn’t want to step on his toes because he was obviously the clearly defined leader,” he said. “He was the voice of the team. But now that he's gone, naturally, opportunities to step up and lead and speak came. It’s definitely something I was trying to be a little conscious of early on in the winter, and then over time just became like second nature.”
McCord is regarded as more of a pure pocket passer than Brown, but both quarterbacks are more likely to use their legs than Stroud did.
“Once I got to college, I think you realize that to play at this level, you have to be a good athlete,” McCord said. “That's one of the things with (strength) coach Mick (Marotti) and his staff that I've been focusing on – speed and agility.
“It's not necessarily how fast your 40 time is. A lot of it is, how quickly can you take a hard reset and get back on platform? Or can you evade the rush and get outside the pocket and extend the play? Working in ways like that has been a pivotal point of my training.”
Brown, who like McCord is 6-3, has gotten noticeably bigger since he arrived as a 180-pound early enrollee last January. He now weighs 215.
"I think I'm in between a Justin Fields and a C.J. Stroud in terms of my play. I can extend plays with my feet and make guys miss but also have the arm strength to make pretty much every throw on the field."
“I think I'm an athletic quarterback,” Brown said. “Obviously, I'm not the greatest athlete. I'm not Justin Fields. But I think I'm in between a Justin Fields and a C.J. Stroud in terms of my play. I can extend plays with my feet and make guys miss but also have the arm strength to make pretty much every throw on the field. I believe that with my whole heart. There's not a throw on the field that I cannot make.”
The competition will heat up as the spring progresses, but McCord and Brown say theirs will remain a friendly one.
“We're really close,” McCord said. “I think we both know what it is, but I think that's the beauty of it. All offseason, we've been pushing each other, which is good. I mean, he's definitely gotten me better, and I've definitely gotten him better.”
Brown said last year and reiterated Tuesday that he’s at Ohio State for the long haul, even if he doesn’t win the starting job. But like McCord, he wants to do everything he can to be the starter.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a little stressful because we're trying to win the starting job at Ohio State,” Brown said. “But at the same time, what should I stress about? I'm in a great situation. I'm at the best school in the country. I'm on the best team in the country. And the chance that I have to be able to become a starting quarterback at Ohio State, there's nothing more I can ask for.”