Ohio State will have a new starting quarterback against Akron.
With C.J. Stroud battling a shoulder injury that has plagued him through the first three games of the season, Ryan Day said Thursday that the plan is for either Kyle McCord or Jack Miller to start at quarterback against Akron, though Stroud will be available in an “emergency capacity.”
“Going into this game, we’ve asked C.J. to probably take these last couple of days off and rest that shoulder,” Day said Thursday on his radio show. “Kyle and Jack have done a good job, and so the plan right now is to probably, we’ll see how today goes, but probably use C.J. in somewhat of an emergency capacity on Saturday and play some of those other guys.”
Day told reporters on Thursday that Stroud's shoulder injury is not serious but that they felt it was in his best interest to take the week off from throwing, though Stroud hasn't been completely ruled out from playing yet.
“I don’t think C.J.’s situation is serious,” Day said. “But we did feel like some rest would go a long way.”
Day said that while Stroud wants to play, and it will “be very, very hard for him” if he doesn't play against Akron, they decided together that resting him for this week's game would be a smart plan.
“There was still kind of this feeling that he had that he really couldn’t shake and so maybe rest is something that would go a long way for him and allow some of these other guys to practice and move forward here,” Day said. “No competitor wants to sit there and watch their teammates play. But we also have to be smart. We can’t be reckless.”
Day did not specify whether McCord or Miller would be the starting quarterback, though McCord has been second in the quarterback line behind Stroud during pregame warmups before the first three games. He said a starting quarterback will likely be chosen Friday after evaluating how Thursday's practice goes, and that the plan is to choose one quarterback to start and play the majority of the game rather than rotating between McCord and Miller.
“I have faith in both of those guys,” Day said. “Probably would pick one and then go from there, and then if the opportunity presents itself, let the other guy get a drive. But I think the best thing to do is we gotta go win the game and figure out which quarterback we think allows us the opportunity to do that, and then go from there.”
Fellow true freshman Quinn Ewers will not be available to play against Akron, said Day, who said earlier this week that Ewers hasn't yet gotten “enough reps to be able to prepare to play in a game right now.”
No quarterback other than Stroud has taken a snap this season. Miller played 10 snaps as a true freshman in 2020, but did not throw a pass; McCord, a true freshman this year, will make his Ohio State debut on Saturday if he plays against Akron.
Of course, this won't be the first time this year that Ohio State goes into a game with a starting quarterback who's never thrown a collegiate pass before, as Stroud hadn't thrown any passes as a Buckeye before the season opener at Minnesota.
“At some point, you gotta get them out there and you gotta let them play, learn from their mistakes,” Day said. “And so we just trust what we see in practice. It’s all about their preparation. They’re going against really good players every day in practice, and it’s time to go let some other guys possibly get some action, probably this weekend.
“We knew going into the season that we’re gonna need the whole room. We talked about that coming in that this wasn’t gonna just probably be one guy. We’re gonna need everybody. And we certainly know the story on that in 2014, we needed J.T. (Barrett), Cardale (Jones) and Braxton (Miller). And this year may be similar to that. I don’t know, we’ll see. But this is a great opportunity to possibly get these guys some reps, and it looks like maybe the opportunity’s gonna present itself here.”
While Stroud beat out Miller and McCord to win the starting job before the season, Day has been encouraged by the growth he's seen from McCord and Miller over the past month.
“I think that over the last three or four weeks, there’s been improvement in that room,” Day said. “Those guys taking the two reps, you don’t get as many reps obviously as you do with the ones; this week they’ve gotten more reps, which is good. But I think just being a part of the meetings, the games, seeing what happens in preparation, seeing what happens during the week in our preparation, the better that we practice, the better that we play, how important timing is during the week, and now that they’ve gone through a couple weeks, they see what it looks like and they’ve gone through warmups, they’ve done everything now and that’s good. So it’s going to be exciting to see these guys get on the field.”
“I have faith in both of those guys.”– Ryan Day on Kyle McCord and Jack Miller
Day did not specify whether he expected Stroud to be back for Ohio State's next game against Rutgers. While it is anticipated that Stroud will return to the starting lineup once he is healthy, Day didn't commit to anything when he was asked about that on Thursday.
“This is a long season, so you just don’t know what’s coming next, and that’s what I talk to our guys about all the time,” Day said. “All I knew for sure was that in the first week, we were gonna have a starter named at Minnesota, and then the season’s gonna go from there. So here we are. And I think it’s a great opportunity to get these guys reps and it’ll be a great evaluation moving forward. But we’ll just kind of see. Let’s just get through today and see where this goes.”