Competition Between Backup Quarterbacks Jack Miller, C.J. Stroud Will Continue Into the Season As Both Freshmen Develop

By Dan Hope on October 22, 2020 at 1:50 pm
C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller
Ohio State Dept. of Athletics

If either C.J. Stroud or Jack Miller outperformed the other this preseason in the competition to become the Buckeyes' backup quarterback, Ryan Day and Ohio State don't want us to know that yet.

That much was clear on Wednesday evening, when Ohio State announced that both Miller and Stroud had lost their black stripes at the exact same time, providing no hint into which freshman might be more ready to play when the Buckeyes open their season on Saturday against Nebraska.

It continued to be clear on Thursday afternoon, when Day said on both his radio show and his final press conference of the week that he expects the competition between the freshman quarterbacks to “keep going throughout the season.”

“I think if we had a spring practice or a normal preseason, we probably would have been a little bit further along, but I don’t think it’s fair right now to put one in front of the other,” Day said. “We’re still gonna kinda split the reps and allow these guys to both grow.”

While Ohio State typically releases a depth chart on Fridays, it's likely that depth chart will list the No. 2 quarterback as Stroud OR Miller OR Gunnar Hoak, the fifth-year senior who's also been involved in the competition to be Justin Fields' top backup – though Day spoke specifically about the two freshman quarterbacks when he discussed the backup quarterback competition on Thursday.

It's still possible that Hoak could be the top backup because he has more experience, but assuming that one of the freshmen does end up being the second quarterback to play on Saturday or whenever Ohio State first has the opportunity to play a backup quarterback this year, that doesn't necessarily mean that quarterback will continue to be second in line for snaps all year. Day makes it sound as though the Buckeyes will try to work both freshmen into games over the course of the season.

Day says he likes what he's seen from both Miller and Stroud so far. But he also recognizes that there's a big burden that comes with being the next man up on Ohio State's quarterback depth chart, and he doesn't want to put that solely on either of their shoulders yet.

“This thing’s going to continue to progress as the season goes on, and we’ll see where we’re at game in and game out,” Day said. “But these guys need to learn the system. They need to get reps under their belt. The other thing is, they’ve got to learn what’s it like to be the quarterback at Ohio State. It’s not like most places. You don’t have the luxury of going in there and having a bad game or having a bad play. It’s just not going to work that way at Ohio State. So that’s part of the maturity process that both those guys are learning, and they’re getting better. And that’s what’s exciting to see.”

Day and quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis unquestionably need to have a plan going into Saturday's game for which quarterback would go into the game if anything happens to Fields. But in the interest of keeping the competition between Stroud and Miller fair – and keeping both of them happy – they're unlikely to reveal that plan before they have to, and they'll likely try to get both of them into games as much as possible to give them both the opportunity to develop this year before they compete to be Justin Fields' successor next year.

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