The Hurry-Up: Kyle McCord Discusses What He Learned From “Once-in-a-Lifetime” Elite 11 Finals, How He Bounced Back to Have MVP-Worthy Performance

By Zack Carpenter on July 2, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Kyle McCord

The Hurry-Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.

McCord discusses Elite 11 experience

Kyle McCord is the first to admit that he didn’t have his best stuff on Monday – his first of three days of competition at the Elite 11 Finals in Nashville. 

In his first competitive environment since January’s Under Armour Future 50, McCord wasn’t himself, and it showed.

“I threw it OK. I definitely threw some good balls, but overall it wasn’t up to the standard I hold myself to, first and foremost,” McCord told Eleven Warriors. “I missed a few balls that I definitely wanted back.”

So the five-star Ohio State quarterback commit essentially took a deep breath or two and got back to his roots.

“I think it was a little bit of everything. The biggest thing for me was just relaxing and having fun,” McCord said. “Day one, I was really just pressing a little bit too much. I was not relaxed, and I think that’s when I’m at my best is when I’m relaxed and having fun and throwing the ball around like I’m in the backyard. So I think I had to almost remind myself to go out and have fun.”

He got a reminder of that from Corey Dennis, the Buckeyes’ first-year quarterbacks coach, who has a great relationship with McCord and reminded him to just take it easy.

“Coach Corey told me after day one to just go out and have fun,” McCord said. “That’s the biggest reason everyone plays football is to have fun. I think that was something that I wasn’t doing too much of on day one. And then, just relaxing and taking a step back and focusing on the task at hand was the biggest difference. It was just kind of a shift in mindset. 

“I talk to Corey literally every day just about life in general and then obviously about football. For him to tell me that it’s not a big deal, that it’s the Elite 11, but it’s not gonna make or break me. ... For him to tell me to go out and have fun was just a refresher that I think was part of my bounceback. I have a great relationship with him, and he knows how I am as a person, as a football player and as a competitor. He definitely got me going for day two.”

Maybe it wasn’t Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday or a Win One for the Gipper speech. But the extra encouragement certainly helped.

“I think day two I really locked in and focused,” McCord said. “I think that really showed going on from there. I definitely bounced back from a decent day one. I think day two and day three definitely showed what I’m made of.”

On day two, in the Pro Day Competition – which was essentially a simulated pro day workout – McCord was almost completely in control of where he wanted to put the ball, tossing some beautiful throws that lasered right toward his receiver’s faces or fell right into their bread baskets. 

On day three, in the Target Challenge – the stipulations of which you can read about here – he performed well again.

He won the Pro Day Competition with a score of 45 points, coming within five points of the event’s all-time record holder – future Buckeye teammate CJ Stroud – and finished seventh out of the 20 quarterbacks in the Target Challenge. Overall, across the final two days, McCord made a strong case for Elite 11 MVP by showing off what 247Sports analyst Barton Simmons called “one of the strongest arms in the country.”

McCord was not awarded MVP, as the trophy was given to fellow five-star prospect Caleb Williams, with some semi-controversy swirling around the fact that Trent Dilfer – the former NFL quarterback who is the head coach of the Elite 11 – said that 75 percent of the criteria in selecting the MVP is based off junior film and traits, and 25 percent is based on the actual event. (Elite 11 president Brian Stumpf later said that it was a 50-50 split and that Dilfer misspoke.)

That criteria seems to strongly imply that the winner of this year’s award was largely predetermined heading into the event, and that McCord or another quarterback probably would have won MVP if it was solely based on camp performance.

There was some disappointment for McCord – who was still named as one of the event’s top performers – not to win MVP, but he nevertheless remained humble about it.

“It’s not my place to say if I deserved it or not,” McCord said. “I don’t exactly know what the criteria was. I don’t know what the coaches were grading off of, but that’s not my spot to say who deserved it and who didn’t. I’m just responsible for going out there and controlling what I can control. MVP would’ve been nice to win, but at the end of the day, it really doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a trophy. Obviously, I wanted to win it because that’s the competitor in me. But it’s not the biggest thing to me.”

Here is an extra dose of Eleven Warriors’ interview with McCord, with more coming later this week:

11W: You went down there saying that your main goal was to soak up all the knowledge that you could, so what did you learn from the entire experience?

McCord: It was a really unique experience. It’s really the only camp in the country where you’re gonna get 20 of the best quarterbacks in the nation together in one environment to compete against each other. It was a really cool environment down there. It was really cool to meet some of the guys from all across the country and get to know them because we’re gonna be competing against each other at the next level and even beyond that, some of us. So it was really cool to be around them and some of the counselors who had great seasons the past couple years and dominating college football. 

Just tried to soak up all the knowledge from the coaches. There was years of NFL experience between the coaching staff with guys who had a lot of knowledge. So I was just trying to soak up all of that and really just enjoy the three days. It went by pretty fast, but I felt like I started out OK. I threw it OK. Definitely not my best day, but I bounced back day two and day three and finished strong. Happy with how I did down there. I think I definitely showcased what I’m about as a quarterback and a competitor. Definitely happy. It was just a great experience. A once in a lifetime type of thing.

11W: You just named a bunch of positives about being down there, but was there any one specific thing that was your favorite part of the experience?

McCord: Obviously, I’m a competitor, and I definitely liked competing against the guys and kind of stacking up against them. You see one guy throw a great ball, and that just makes you wanna throw the next ball even better than that and top them. On top of that, it was also cool just being around them. I think Tuesday night is really when we started getting to know each other and when a lot of relationships were really formed. It was cool just hanging around those guys. If I had one thing I really like, it was obviously competing against top guys but also getting to know a few of them and building relationships now.

11W: Who were some those guys you bonded with the most?

McCord: I knew a few of the guys going into it, but one of the guys that it was my first time meeting down there and really had a good time with was Drake Maye from North Carolina. He was one of the guys that I obviously knew about and heard of, and getting to know him down in Nashville was pretty cool. He’s a good dude on and off the field. Started a relationship that I think is gonna last a pretty long time.

11W: You and J.J. McCarthy were battling all week. He’s going to Michigan, and you’re going to Ohio State. I’m sure people want you guys to hate each other because of that, but it’s not like that is it?

McCord: No, I’ve known J.J. since eighth grade. We were both on a little bit of a national scene from a young age. But I think even if we weren’t going to two of the biggest rival schools in the nation, we would both compete. We’re both competitors, and obviously the whole narrative of Ohio State vs. The Team Up North is huge. And I think it’s really easy to make it out to be that we hate each other and we wanna beat each other in everything. I think (wanting to beat each other) is true because we’re both competitors, but we’re cool off the field. We’re definitely friends, first and foremost, but I think people try to blow it out of the water trying to make it seem like that just because we’re going to two rival schools. 

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