The country's best rivalry now features two head coaches who have a history of developing quarterbacks. Ryan Day helped bring Dwayne Haskins to his record-setting 2018 form that led to the redshirt sophomore being selected No. 15 overall in this year's NFL Draft. Justin Fields is now expected to be the latest and greatest experiment in Columbus.
Jim Harbaugh earned the reputation of a quarterback whisperer thanks to the work he put in at Stanford and later with the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick. His time in Ann Arbor hasn't always been great, however, as the Wilton Speight and John O'Korn experiments didn't turn out so well. Harbaugh definitely does deserve some credit for Jake Rudock and we'll see how the Shea Patterson project turns out during his senior season.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines both got some good news this spring as the two rivals managed to shore up the future at the most important position on the field. Philadelphia's Kyle McCord announced his decision on April 30th and La Grange Park, Illinois' J.J. McCarthy committed to Michigan on May 11.
We are certainly a long way from the Class of 2021 signing their letters of intent, but there's no reason to think McCord and McCarthy won't be future signees for the two foes. Their recruitments and respective paths to the Big Ten powers are where things get interesting.
On the Ohio State side, it's important to note that Jack Miller is also in the fold for the 2020 class and the Scottsdale signal-caller is one of the best prospects in the entire country. The expectation is that most powerhouse programs bring in a solid (if not elite) quarterback in every single class, so there are always going to be battles under center. It's certainly fair to expect the same for Ryan Day and Mike Yurcich in the relatively near future.
But the McCord vs. McCarthy comparisons may very well last throughout their collegiate careers. In early April we talked about the race to become the guy for Ohio State's 2021 class. Quarterback recruiting moves at a much quicker pace than the other positions, so it was expected that Ryan Day and Co. could make a decision at any time.
The Buckeyes hosted McCarthy back in March and some felt he was on track to commit to the team he grew up rooting for. It was clear that the Ohio State staff was still exploring their options, however, and eventually decided that McCord was the better fit. It certainly doesn't hurt that his teammate – Marvin Harrison Jr. – is one of the country's best 2021 wide receivers.
Earlier this spring and while Ohio State was still in the midst of sifting through the options at the position, 247 Sports unveiled their initial rankings for the Class of 2021. McCarthy is slotted as the nation's No. 2 pro-style passer and No. 19 overall prospect. McCord is listed at No. 114 in the country and the eighth-ranked quarterback.
Ryan Day and Ohio State's decision goes against how one of the industry leaders views the situation, but obviously the Buckeyes got their guy in Kyle McCord. He's 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, and plays at the powerhouse St. Joseph's Prep program. This year the Hawks may have the toughest schedule in America as they'll square off against the likes of IMG Academy, Georgia's Marietta High, and Washington D.C. St. John's.
Jim Harbaugh will lose Shea Patterson after 2019, and then it'll likely be a battle between Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton heading into 2020. Cade McNamara arrived in January and the newest four-star addition to the quarterback room could also factor into the 2020 race. Good luck in keeping up with all of the "M" quarterbacks up north.
McCarthy's eventual arrival will give the Wolverines their most talented quarterback under Harbaugh. And while the Class of 2021 rankings are going to fluctuate between now and signing day, the Illinois product is sure to continue putting up a ridiculous stat line. Last year Nazareth Academy took home a state title behind his 39 touchdowns and nearly 3,500 yards. He tossed just four interceptions while completing 77 percent of his passes.
Ohio State's process for the cycle has already led to some animosity, and The Athletic's Ari Wasserman spoke with McCarthy about his new hatred for Ohio State and overall disdain for the way Ryan Day and the staff handled the 2021 quarterback situation ($). There already seems to be some bad blood in place; at least from the perspective of the prospect.
Back in the Class of 2016, tailback Kareem Walker made an early pledge to the Buckeyes before ultimately siding with the Wolverines. Ohio State ended up signing Antonio Williams at the position, and the two were often compared during their careers. Williams ran for 318 yards and three touchdowns while in Columbus. Walker recorded 68 yards and one score while in Ann Arbor.
That saga didn't exactly end well for either program as Williams is now at North Carolina and Walker elected to go the JUCO route. He rushed for 200 yards and a score in his first year at Kansas' Fort Scott Community College. Williams ran for 504 yards and five scores as a Tarheel in 2018.
Quarterback is an entirely different beast, however, so it's fair to assume that Kyle McCord and J.J. McCarthy will be linked throughout their college careers. There's no telling when either one will see action and there are bound to be plenty of changes before the 2021 crop arrives on campuses across the country.
Ryan Day and the Buckeyes made their decision, and now we'll wait to see exactly how things pan out for the Big Ten powers and two of the country's top young quarterbacks.