There appears to be no quarterback controversy on the horizon at Ohio State this week.
Despite missing this past weekend’s Akron matchup with an ongoing shoulder issue, Ryan Day confirmed Tuesday that C.J. Stroud will be the starter against Rutgers if healthy, and the Buckeye head coach said things are trending positively with Stroud’s health.
“I’m optimistic that coming off of Sunday’s practice and the feedback that I’ve got from the trainers and from our medical staff and from C.J. that we’re ready to move forward this week,” Day said at Tuesday’s press conference.
True freshman Kyle McCord, a five-star recruit in the class of 2021, started in place of Stroud on Saturday as Day and the Buckeye staff determined that rest would be beneficial for the California native after he discussed not being 100 percent after games against Oregon and Tulsa.
McCord went 13-for-18 with 319 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against the Zips, earning the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week honor, but the first-year Buckeye did not receive a champion grade from his coaches on Monday.
“He was inconsistent with some of his reads,” Day said. “I thought that early on he was a little nervous. He did make some nice throws when he saw it, and I thought there were some really good plays in there. But there was also some that he kind of got away with. We just got to do a great job of recognizing what the pre-snap movement keys are and the post-snap movement keys are and just trust our eyes. When you’re starting for the first time, there’s a lot going on, and I think the next time he’s in that moment he’ll be a little bit more settled.”
Second-year quarterback Jack Miller came in for McCord in the third quarter to finish out the game, and ended the night 5-for-8 with 66 yards, no scores and no turnovers. However, Day said he wasn’t particularly open to the idea that a great showing from either player would have earned them a permanent starting job over Stroud moving forward.
“We’ll continue to build and grow, and it was good to get snaps under (McCord’s) belt, and same thing with Jack. I think it was good for both of those guys as we move forward, and just see what comes these next couple weeks," Day said. "Kyle, for the most part – and same thing with Jack – they pretty much played the way they’ve practiced. But I think now it gives them a little bit more of a reference point moving forward of, ‘OK, this is maybe how it looks in practice, but this is the reality in a game.’”
Stroud earned two Big Ten Freshman of the Week nods in his first two starts this season. He threw for 294 yards and four scores against Minnesota and nearly set Ohio State’s all-time single-game passing record against Oregon with 484 yards through the air.
Stroud has received criticism just the same, having thrown interceptions in each of his first three games, and having his worst performance in his most recent start against Tulsa. Still, Day said he’s no more likely to bench Stroud in favor of McCord or Miller after seeing them play against Akron than he would have been at the start of the season.
“Not any more than it was a few weeks ago. I think it’s great to have reps under our belt so that we know what we have, but I’ve said from the beginning it’s gonna take all three guys to get through the season, and it’s already Week 4 and all three guys have played,” Day said. “So we’ll assess it this week and see how guys are feeling and go from there.”
Day stopped short of confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that Stroud will be the starter Saturday, leaving room for the possibility of an unexpected setback with his shoulder, but all indications are that Stroud will retake the reins of the offense at Rutgers if all goes according to plan.
“We’ll see how today goes. I thought the week helped him, and it sounds like it’s going in the right direction,” Day said. “So we’re hoping for a great day of practice today.”