Nobody has publicly dropped even the slightest hint about Ohio State’s ongoing quarterback competition. Not any assistant coaches, not any player and not head coach Ryan Day.
And don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Day’s more than fine with everybody outside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center knowing as little as possible about what exactly is happening inside the building during spring camp when it comes to the quarterback position. He barely even says the trio of candidates' names in press conferences. One of the main reasons? Because while fans are craving information about who’s leading the battle between C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller and Kyle McCord and want to know the eventual starter sooner than later, Day doesn’t have a timeline to determine when he wants to wrap it up.
There won’t be any rush to make the most important decision of this team’s offseason.
“I think the more practices we have, the more times we can put them in game situations, the better feel we'll have,” Day said on Monday. “But you never stop learning. You see some of these guys who maybe go on to play in the NFL. Sometimes it takes five years. Sometimes it takes one year. Sometimes it takes two years. You just don't really know. As long as they continue to get better and keep growing, then we're going to keep working with them and try to figure it out. I'd love to sit here and tell you that I think we'll have a great feel for it in two weeks or three weeks or the fifth practice of preseason, but I don't think so. I do think the more we're around them, the more we get a feel for it, the more it kind of shakes out. Even going into that first game, you'll still be learning and trying to evaluate it all.”
Got to watch a few minutes of Ohio State football practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this morning. Not nearly enough time to make any real evaluation on the quarterback battle between C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller and Kyle McCord, but here's a quick glimpse of them throwing: pic.twitter.com/HJRN8NqSKe— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) April 2, 2021
By the time the first game week rolls around, whether it’s Stroud, Miller or McCord who has taken control, Day clearly will want to have a handle on a starting quarterback. But to him, this is just the beginning of a long, drawn-out process.
Stroud played eight snaps and didn't throw a pass last year. Miller played 10 without a passing attempt. McCord has experienced fewer than a dozen practices as a college football player. All three are simultaneously young and inexperienced.
For now, while certainly evaluating what’s happening, Day and quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis remain in the installation phase of the offseason. Not until a couple of days ago did the team finally scrimmage.
“They're still doing some things for the first time, and we're still on first and second down,” Day said early last week. “We start installing third down on Wednesday, and then we can start getting into move-its and situational things. They all throw the ball well. The ball comes out of their hands well. They still need to work on consistency in those areas and the different things fundamentally and technique-wise throwing it that makes them more consistent. They certainly all throw it good enough. Now, decision-making, timing, consistency, vision, anticipation – those are all the things that come into play. And then in the end, who takes care of the ball. The guys who turn the ball over aren't going to last very long as a quarterback at Ohio State.
“Those are the things we'll have to figure out. When you just watch them go out there and throw the ball on air, they all look the part and they all throw it really well. But now who's going to run the offense and be a leader? Because in the end, that's what a quarterback's No. 1 job is – being a leader.”
Last year, Day didn’t have to wonder about many of those questions. He spent his time molding Justin Fields, who already had a year of experience and was coming off a Heisman Trophy finalist performance. The prior two seasons, though, first with Dwayne Haskins then with Fields, Day had first-year starting quarterbacks. So, this isn’t an entirely new situation for the third-year head coach who used to be the position coach.
But the unknown of it all is naturally still a bit uncomfortable.
“I think I get excited about that sometimes when I'm by myself in my office, but when I'm on the field and they're going through growing pains, I'm not that excited about it because there's a lot that comes with that,” Day said on Friday. “And you just have to take a deep breath because most of the time, they're making mistakes for the first time. And as much as I just want to jump down their throat, they've done it for the first time. They've never done that before. They're never physically seen a blitz off the edge and had to react that way. Now, if they see it again and they make the same mistake, now we have a problem.”
So far, Day says, the young trio of signal-callers is on the right track.
“They're doing good,” he said a few days ago. “They're grinding at it, they want to get better, they have the right attitude, and I'm excited about all their futures.”
There’s every reason to feel excited about their futures. Stroud, Miller and McCord were all high-profile recruits who held dozens of scholarship offers and tore it up in high school.
The challenge for Day, of course, is that the future – otherwise known as Ohio State’s season opener on Sept. 2 – continues to creep closer while the quarterback competition rolls on. At some point, he, like everybody else, will want to know the starter. It just likely won’t be anytime soon.