After C.J. Stroud graded out as a champion once again in Ohio State’s final scrimmage of the preseason on Friday, Ryan Day decided it was time to name his starting quarterback.
Ohio State reporters were informed Friday evening that Day – who was originally scheduled to next meet with the media on Monday – would be holding a press conference on Saturday morning. He started that press conference by announcing the news that many had been anticipating all offseason: Stroud will begin the season as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.
That decision came after three weeks of preseason camp in which Stroud demonstrated to Day and the rest of Ohio State’s coaching staff that he is ready to lead the Buckeyes’ offense this season.
“Man, I’m excited about what I’ve seen in camp,” Day said. “We haven’t been live. We haven’t been tackled. I shared with him that he’s gonna have to be tough this season. … But I’m excited about what we’ve seen, for sure. He’s shown us all the things that we need to see to be ready to go play Minnesota on the 2nd with him at quarterback.”
Day had already teased Stroud becoming Ohio State’s new starting quarterback on Monday, when he said Stroud had started to separate himself from Kyle McCord and Jack Miller in the competition, but he wanted to see how the third week of camp went before making a final decision. That said, Stroud took a greater share of the reps with the first-team offense this week, and now that the Buckeyes are closing out camp and turning the page to preparing specifically for the season opener at Minnesota in 12 days, Day decided it was time to bring the competition to a close.
“We had a big scrimmage yesterday. We kind of called it our preseason game,” Day said. “The whole goal was who’s game-ready? Who’s ready to go play in this game? And I thought we had a bunch of guys who are game-ready. Not everybody. But I think this was kind of that line of demarcation of where everybody’s at. C.J. graded out a champion and played really well in that game, and I think he solidified that spot.”
“Man, I’m excited about what I’ve seen in camp.” – Ryan Day on C.J. Stroud
Now that Stroud is locked in as the starter for the season opener, Day said Stroud will take most of the first-team reps next week – “he maybe won’t get all of them, but he’ll get the majority of them,” Day said – while Miller and McCord will split second-team reps. Quinn Ewers, who just joined the team last weekend, has missed the last couple of days of practice and will remain out until the latter part of next week due to an injury, Day said.
Day said Ohio State has not yet made a decision on who will be the No. 2 quarterback behind Stroud.
“We’re gonna just keep working through this week to see how the guys do,” Day said on the backup quarterback competition. “And that’s a big part for Kyle, for Jack, for Quinn, for all the guys in that room to continue to work. And then we’ll kind of, as we get into the game week, we’ll kind of figure out what that is on a week-to-week basis. So again, there’s a lot of development still with those guys, and they’ll continue to work at it, and as we get closer to the game, we’ll probably put that together.”
Of course, Stroud becoming the starter raises the question about whether any of the Buckeyes’ other quarterbacks will consider transferring elsewhere. But at least for the 2021 season – it's too late to transfer elsewhere and play this season anyway – Day believes all four quarterbacks are fully committed to Ohio State.
“Those guys, they’re in it for the long haul,” Day said. “They’ve been great teammates. And they know the focus has to be on development. We talked about this early on. We knew that there was gonna be one quarterback who started against Minnesota. That’s the only thing that’s guaranteed. And they’re all here to continue to work and develop and grow, and their attitudes have been excellent. So that’s been their focus.
“Now listen, when we get to January, we’ll see what the year brings, I think we all come up for air and reassess and that’s all fair and I totally get it. But right now, I know that they’re committed and they want to be here.”
Asked specifically about McCord, Day said he thinks McCord is “further along” at this point than most of the other freshman quarterbacks Ohio State has had since Day’s been there. Day said he’s been impressed with all of the quarterbacks’ development this offseason, and he thinks Ohio State’s receivers are confident in all of them, too.
Right now, however, Day is confident that Stroud is the man to lead the Ohio State offense. When asked if it was a “tough decision” to pick Stroud over McCord and Miller, Day said he thought “it was the right decision, for sure.” He said Stroud “separated himself with his decision-making, his leadership skills and his accuracy.”
“He’s a guy who has a strong arm, and he has accuracy, but he does have anticipation and touch as well. Which those things are really good traits to have,” Day said. “I think he’s kind of surprised everybody with his athleticism. I think that he moves well in and out of the pocket. He can pull the ball and run. He can extend plays. And again, I think his preparation’s been excellent.
“So I’ve been proud of the way he’s gone to work, and really hasn’t said a whole bunch about this whole competition. Just kept his eyes on getting better every day, and because of that, he’s our starter.”
Yet while Stroud has done what he needed to do to win the job, Day also wants his new starting quarterback to understand that the work is just beginning, which Day believes Stroud does.
“I think he knows that this is just an opportunity. It’s not an accomplishment, it’s an opportunity, and I think he looked at it like that,” Day said. “So now we gotta go about the business of going and putting it on the field.”