As Ohio State’s quarterbacks went through warmups before Saturday’s game against Tulsa, it was apparent that C.J. Stroud’s shoulder was bothering him.
He didn’t throw nearly as many passes as the starting quarterback usually does during pregame warmups – at times, he was just standing and watching while Kyle McCord, Jack Miller and Quinn Ewers took reps – and when he did throw, he often grabbed at his shoulder or rotated it afterward.
Stroud revealed that he had been playing with an injury after last weekend’s loss to Oregon, and he confirmed after Saturday’s game that his shoulder was still bothering him during the Buckeyes’ 41-20 win over the Golden Hurricane.
Despite that, Stroud has taken every snap at quarterback for Ohio State so far this season, and he said he didn’t consider not playing against Tulsa.
“I was healthy enough to play. Definitely not 100 percent, but who is 100 percent around this time?” Stroud said after the game. “It hurts, but life hurts. Winning is tough. So I just have to grind through it. There’s been plenty of guys here who have grinded through injuries, and that’s just playing football. You’re never at 100 percent after that first game. So I just thank God that I was even allowed to play in this game and to even be healthy enough. So yeah, it’s tough, but I feel like I’m a tough guy. I’m gonna keep trying to keep going.”
Ryan Day indicated he gave no consideration to holding out Stroud.
“Everybody works through different injuries and different sorenesses and things like that,” Day said. “He’s been practicing well and he’ll continue to do so.”
Whether Stroud playing every snap at quarterback for Ohio State so far this season is really what’s best for the Buckeyes, though, is a question that’s getting asked by more and more Buckeye fans after an underwhelming performance by Stroud on Saturday in which he threw for just 185 yards and one touchdown on 15 completions with one interception in 25 attempts.
So far this season, all indications from Day have been that he believes the answer to that question is yes. While he acknowledges that Stroud must continue to improve, Day has indicated that he’s liked most of what he’s seen from the redshirt freshman quarterback so far.
“There’s still a lot of good going on,” Day said. “Coming off of last week, throwing for (484 yards against Oregon), he’s played well. He’s gonna miss some throws. But he’s learning, he’s growing, it’s his third start. So we’ll keep building from here.”
Stroud has gotten off to slow starts in all three of his starts so far; on Saturday, he completed just two of his first six passing attempts for 25 yards. Throwing passes too high has been a recurring pattern for Stroud on many of his incompletions, especially early in games.
He’s thrown an interception in each of his first three games. On Saturday, he was picked off when he attempted to throw a deep ball to Jeremy Ruckert into traffic, which Stroud said was a misread.
As our Kyle Jones illustrated last month, Tulsa utilizes an unusual defensive scheme that’s designed to make things difficult on opposing quarterbacks, and the Golden Hurricane was able to make life difficult for Stroud.
“They do some funky things on defense to where if you get greedy, you can cause turnovers there. That’s kind of what happened, I kind of got greedy on that one play,” Stroud said. “But yeah, they drop eight every play, so it’s kind of tough to find windows and work the passing game.”
Stroud’s inexperience, having never thrown a pass at the collegiate level before this season, has certainly been a factor in his early inconsistency; the fact that he isn’t fully healthy is probably making an impact, too. And while his play against Tulsa didn’t live up to expectations, Stroud still has the most passing yards of any Ohio State quarterback (963) through the first three games of a season.
Because Stroud is succeeding a superstar quarterback in Justin Fields, and is on a roster that includes three other highly recruited quarterbacks in Ewers, McCord and Miller, every mistake he makes will continue to be scrutinized. Whether any of the other quarterbacks would be performing better than Stroud is entirely unknown, given that none of them have thrown a pass for the Buckeyes yet, but you don’t have to look hard to find Ohio State fans who want to see a different quarterback get a shot.
Stroud, however, says he isn’t worrying about the outside criticism. Although Saturday’s game was statistically his worst so far, Stroud believes he is improving each week, and he doesn’t lack confidence in himself.
“Every game’s a learning aspect for me. I’m only 19 playing as a redshirt freshman. That’s no excuse, but I still have a lot of football to learn, and I feel like I’m getting better and better every week,” Stroud said. “I know a lot of people probably don’t agree with that, but that’s OK. I have God-given talent, and every time I go out there, I give it my blood, sweat and my tears. And if that’s a problem with media, whoever it is, it is what it is. I’m gonna keep my faith in God and my teammates and they have good faith in me, and I’m gonna just keep going. I don’t worry about the negativity. I’m all about being positive, and I feel like I’m a great player. Of course, everybody has mistakes, but I know I’m a great player.”
With all the talent he has around him, including the receiver trio of Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba and a budding superstar running back in TreVeyon Henderson, Stroud believes Ohio State’s offense can be the best in the country. He knows he has to play better, though, for the Buckeyes to make that happen.
“The execution starts with me, so I have to do my job better,” Stroud said. “I definitely have to execute the offense at a high level.”
- #9 Ohio State 41, tulsa 20
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- • C.j. stroud is confident despite criticism and his injury
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