Kyle McCord Excited to Immediately Compete for Ohio State's Starting Quarterback Job

By Dan Hope on January 28, 2021 at 8:35 am
Kyle McCord

It’s rare for an Ohio State quarterback to win the starting job as a true freshman, but Kyle McCord has a chance to make that happen.

Ohio State will have a new starting quarterback in 2021 after Justin Fields entered the NFL draft, and none of the Buckeyes’ returning quarterbacks have ever thrown a collegiate pass. Second-year quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller could begin the spring with a slight leg up on McCord, given that they’ve at least been practicing as Buckeyes for a year and saw very occasional playing time as true freshmen, but their lack of significant game experience in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season leaves less ground for McCord to make up as a true freshman this spring and summer.

McCord was told by Ohio State’s coaches before his arrival on campus that he would have the same opportunity to win the starting job as Miller and Stroud will, and that’s his goal now that he has arrived in Columbus as an early enrollee.

“From everything that the coaches have told me, they said it’s going to be a wide-open battle as soon as the time comes,” McCord told Eleven Warriors in a December interview. “So I’m just excited for it. I feel like I’ve been preparing to the best of my abilities to put myself in a good position to win the job. But obviously there’s a lot of work that has to be done between now and then to do so.

“It’s obviously a unique situation. Not too many true freshman quarterbacks get to walk on to a school like Ohio State and the day they get on campus have a chance to compete for the job. So I’m excited for it.”

There are real reasons to believe in McCord’s potential to win the job immediately, starting with the fact that he’s a five-star recruit. Ranked as the No. 26 overall prospect in the class of 2021, McCord is just the third composite five-star quarterback to sign with Ohio State out of high school since the turn of the millennium.

The last two, Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller, both started for the Buckeyes as true freshmen. (The other was Justin Zwick in 2002.)

Neither of them were Week 1 starters – Art Schlichter, in 1978, is the only true freshman to ever start a full season at quarterback for the Buckeyes – but the complete lack of experience in Ohio State’s quarterback room makes this an unusually legitimate opportunity for McCord to win the job as a first-year Buckeye. And given that the Buckeyes open their 2021 season with a Big Ten game at Minnesota followed by a marquee non-conference game against Oregon, they’re certainly going to want to have their best quarterback on the field at the beginning of the season, regardless of who that ends up being.

“We're going to have to find ways this spring between C.J., Jack and Kyle to give them as many game-like situations to figure out exactly what we've got,” Day said last week. “Because we can't go into that first game without knowing, or at least having an idea. I guess we'll never know until we're in a game. But we've got to try to simulate the games the best we can in practice.”

McCord comes to Columbus after a record-setting career at St. Joseph’s Prep in which he became the all-time leader among Philadelphia high school players in career passing yards (6,887) and passing touchdowns (88) and led the Hawks to three straight state championships. He’s not the dual-threat Fields was for the Buckeyes, but he’s a skilled downfield passer with excellent accuracy and arm strength for an incoming freshman, a proven track record of winning and enough mobility to extend plays with his legs.

“I really think that I’m a complete quarterback, I can make plays in every single way,” McCord said. “I’m not much of a boaster, I’m not gonna say I’m great at this or great at that, it’s just not who I am. But I’m a winner, first and foremost. I think that my high school résumé speaks for itself.”

Day believes McCord has “a chance to be a really, really good player.”

“Kyle, right from the jump, is somebody that we recognized early as very, very talented,” Day said when the Buckeyes signed McCord in December. “I know he’s excited about getting here early on and competing the minute he walks in the door.”

While McCord committed to the Buckeyes before he even started his junior year at St. Joseph’s Prep, he believes he’s gotten better as a quarterback over the past two years, particularly in the mental side of the game. As a senior, McCord’s coaches gave him the chance to call some offensive plays, which he thinks will help him as he now takes on the task of learning Ohio State's offense.

“So I honestly didn’t think we were gonna get a chance to play this year, and then when we did get the green light, my coaches were really open about having me become more of a focal point in the offense and having more of a say in what we do,” McCord said. “So I would help out with the game planning a little bit during the week, and I’d give them a few plays that I really liked against certain coverages and stuff like that. And then they allowed me to make audibles at the line and get us in the right looks if need be just based on the look we were getting.”

In order to prepare to start his Ohio State career, McCord continued to throw with his quarterback coach two to three times per week even after St. Joseph’s Prep’s season ended in November, while also keeping up with lifting and speed and agility training and watching film of both college and NFL offenses “to sharpen up my mind a little bit before I get on campus.”

McCord knows he’s in for a challenge when he and the rest of the Buckeyes’ early enrollees start winter workouts with Mickey Marotti next week, but he trusts Ohio State’s track record of coaching players up to their potential.

“I know it’s gonna be hard, so I’m just preparing for a lot of early mornings and tough coaching from Coach Mick, but just seeing the guys that he’s produced, obviously he knows exactly what he’s doing,” McCord said. “When you look on TV on Sundays, just seeing how many guys have come out of Ohio State and gone on to have success in the NFL is ridiculous.”

Even though McCord is a five-star recruit, he knows nothing will be given to him at Ohio State. He has to beat out two other highly touted quarterbacks who have already been at Ohio State for a year if he wants to win the job this year, while the Buckeyes are set to bring in an even more highly touted quarterback recruit next year in Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 overall prospect in the entire class of 2022.

None of that dissuaded McCord from becoming a Buckeye, though, as he’s confident in his ability to compete against anyone and ultimately emerge as Ohio State’s next great quarterback.

“I’ll bet on myself no matter who I’m competing against, and as long as I put my head down and work and get better every single day, I think that I have a good opportunity to do whatever I want,” McCord said.

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