Spring practice is in the books for the 2021 Ohio State Buckeyes as the countdown to fall camp is officially underway.
On Friday, head coach Ryan Day spoke with the media to recap his team’s progression over the past month as an important summer looms ahead.
At no position will the next three months be more important than at quarterback, where C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller III, and Kyle McCord are in the thick of a battle that does not appear ready to be decided any time soon. Each player had his moments in last Saturday’s spring game in Ohio Stadium, but Day came away from that scrimmage — and all of spring practice — still very much undecided on who will take the first snaps of Ohio State’s season opener at Minnesota.
Now, each guy will be expected to improve across the board over the next few months in hopes of separating themself from the rest of the pack.
“They’re tasked with being obsessed with learning the offense, and a lot goes with that,” Day said on Friday. “They gotta get in the weight room with (strength coach) Mick (Marotti). They gotta get stronger, they gotta get faster, they gotta get quicker. We grade our guys in (the weight room), we have the champions meeting right before the beginning of preseason camp, and if you’re ‘gold,’ that means you’re one of the top performers in the weight room. That’s the first thing they gotta do.”
While it begins in the weight room, Day said there is plenty more each quarterback needs to do to get themselves ready for the final push, including watching film and spending ample time in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to become more fluent in the system. Because when the team returns for fall camp, and just a month separates the Buckeyes from the start of their national championship quest, execution of the offense will be the only thing that matters to the coaching staff.
Ultimately, Day said each quarterback is going to have to be self-motivated in the coming months with the lack of practices if they hope to be in position to handle what will be asked of whomever is announced as the starter in August.
“They’re getting there but they have a long way to go,” Day said. “It was very, very basic (in the spring). We worked on fundamentals and techniques, and like I’ve said, we’re playing catch up here. Obviously, we’d love to have someone who is in year two or three here. We don’t have that luxury. We have some young guys and they have work to do. It’s a race to make up for time that we don’t have. That’s just the truth of it.”
Asked about a timeline in which he hopes to be able to identify the starting quarterback, Day said the bigger focus is on getting each guy ready to play the position at the level required of a starting quarterback at Ohio State. While he said it would be ideal to identify the starter early in camp in order to get him more repetitions, Day isn’t going to rush the decision until he’s certain one of his quarterbacks is ready for the job.
“I think the idea is to get the guys ready,” Day said. “I think one of the things that, just across the board, is the focus is who’s the starter. Ok, well, you can be the starter, but if you’re not ready to go, that’s not going to last very long. So, the race is to get ready to play.
“If we feel like someone has taken that much of a step ahead, and they’re ready to play against Minnesota in that first week, then we’ll name the starter at that point. If it’s not until the week before (kickoff), then (the decision) is not going to be until the week before … until someone really puts themselves out in front of the other two, we’ll just keep going.”
Throughout spring practice, Day has emphasized the importance of each quarterback not trying to win the job with a single throw or a single great practice. Instead, he’s looking for each player to focus on how they can personally develop as a quarterback the quickest, which will go a long way in determining their readiness to start this season.
“The focus for these guys just has to be how they can get developed faster,” he said. “How do I get the most ready to play this season the fastest? Not trying to win the job, because I think maybe sometimes it’s, ‘How do I compare myself to the guy next to me?’ It’s not about that. It’s about how I get myself ready because we have to go win some really hard games this season.”
Of course, regardless of who starts at Minnesota, the expectations surrounding the program won’t change in the slightest. Most especially, Day’s history of leading prolific offenses in Columbus will be expected to continue seamlessly despite the current uncertainties surrounding the trigger man of those attacks.
“We don’t have a choice,” Day said when asked how confident he is the offense will continue to excel this season. “I tell the guys all the time, we have to (be great), whatever that means. That’s the desperation we have to wake up with every day, as a coaching staff and as players. I tell the guys all the time, I wake up scared every day. People want what we have, so the expectation’s been set. We know that. The expectation hasn’t chnaged, and it won’t for 20 years here at Ohio State. We’re expected to be the best, and with that comes great responsibility.
“We’ll wake up every day and just grind. I keep using the word ‘obsessed.’ Our players have to become obsessed with maximizing themselves — in the weight room, watching film, and getting themselves ready to play against Minnesota.”