As Ohio State inches closer to the start of spring practice, all eyes are beginning to shift to the quarterback competition that will soon play out in Columbus to decide who will replace the sizable void left by C.J. Stroud’s departure to the NFL.
Ohio State will hit the field on March 7 for the first of 15 practices, giving both Kyle McCord and Devin Brown their first significant opportunities to state their case for the job. During his press conference on Wednesday, head coach Ryan Day previewed what he expects from the two signal callers who are not short on talent despite a lack of experience.
“I’m excited to see these two guys compete,” Day said. “What an unbelievable opportunity it is for both of them. When you look at the guys who are surrounding them and the cast that is surrounding them, you couldn’t be more excited to be a quarterback, I’d think, in college football … It’s going to be a heck of a competition. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. They both have a little bit of a different skillset, and it’s going to be fun to watch them compete this spring.”
McCord will enter spring practice as the presumed favorite given his additional year of experience in the program. After coming to Ohio State in 2o21 as a highly-touted recruit alongside high school teammate Marvin Harrison Jr., McCord has waited patiently — and loyally — for his opportunity to lead the Buckeyes.
In addition to the benefits of simply having been in the program longer than Brown, McCord has a collegiate start under his belt that offers Day the valuable resource of having game film to digest. With Stroud nursing a shoulder injury in September of 2021, McCord, then a true freshman, filled in admirably in his lone start with a 319-yard, two-touchdown performance in a win over Akron.
McCord went on to attempt 12 more passes across four games that season, and he added 16 attempts in relief of Stroud in 2022 as the lone backup to attempt a pass.
For Brown, time is not on his side after just completing his first calendar year in the program last month. A late addition to the 2022 recruiting class and an early enrollee in January of 2021, Brown undoubtedly has ground to make up on McCord with regard to understanding and commanding the offense.
Still, despite his relative newness to the program, Brown’s arm talent is undeniable and likely represents the primary reason the position is being treated as a competition at all this offseason. If Brown can close the knowledge gap during the spring, the competition will surely spill into the summer as Day continues to weigh his options.
While spring practice will give Day and quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis their first true glimpse into how life after Stroud may look, Day noted the two quarterbacks received valuable repetitions throughout bowl practices leading up to Ohio State’s College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with Georgia in the absence of Stroud.
“The good news for both of them is that in the bowl practice, there were a few days where C.J. was down for a day, and then he went to the Heisman ceremony for a couple of days, so those guys were able to step up,” Day said. “We had some really competitive practices in there. We were actually able to see those guys compete, and it was good to see.”
Day added, “The guy who’s the leader —there’s a lot of different ways to do it — and is competitively tough is ultimately going to win the job.”
Whether that transpires in the spring or not for Day remains to be seen, although he would certainly appreciate the luxury of heading into the summer with some semblance of an idea of who he will turn to first when Ohio State enters fall camp in August.
However, Day added he’s willing to take as long as needed for the coaching staff to settle on the right guy to take the reigns of the offense.
“I hope that one of them emerges and we can name a starter, I really do,” Day said. “Because I think that the way that our dynamic is, it would be great for our program to be able to do that. There were times in the past when I just didn’t see that happening (with previous competitions). I’m hoping that can happen, but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But some vision on who the starter is coming out of the spring would be nice.”