Kyle McCord’s Improvement Since Last Year Is “Night And Day” As Ohio State Backup Quarterback Maintains “The Mindset of Being the Starter”

By Griffin Strom on August 22, 2022 at 10:10 am
Kyle McCord

Last month, Kyle McCord had an opportunity to pick the mind of a man who knows a thing or two about playing quarterback at Ohio State.

At Braxton Miller’s CHARG1NG Football Camp in July, the second-year signal-caller told the Buckeye legend, “the jump from year one to year two has been huge” as his understanding of the position and acclimation to the highest level of college football continues to grow.

Miller’s reply?

“Bro, just wait until you go from year two to year three, like it's even bigger.”

McCord is well-positioned to take over the reins from C.J. Stroud as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback next year, assuming the 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist turns pro at the conclusion of the forthcoming season. But the five-star prospect can’t look that far ahead just yet.

McCord still has a full year to spend developing his skills under center before that point, and there’s no guarantee his number won’t be called in a big spot in 2022. Unlike last year, there’s no competition taking place during fall camp to figure out who QB1 will be ahead of the season opener. But in all likelihood, McCord will remain the Buckeyes’ backup quarterback this year, even with Devin Brown showing promise at the position as an incoming freshman.

“The transition that I've made from year one, like this time last year to now, it's night and day and everything's starting to slow down.”– Kyle McCord

That means despite some inevitable impatience for his future in the program, McCord must be ready at a moment’s notice all season long.

“I'm not going to try to be C.J. if that situation comes up, I'm gonna just try to be myself. But I feel like definitely coming into the second year, the confidence level is a lot higher and you're understanding the offense, understanding ins and outs,” McCord said at a post-practice interview session last week. “So I think definitely from where I was last year to where I am now, I feel like the confidence level is a lot higher.

“That's just the mindset I've really had all last year after they named C.J. the starter, and then now carrying that same mindset into this year. And even though you're not getting all the reps with the ones and you're not going out there with the starters, you still have to prepare like you are the starter. And I think it's tough because sometimes it's easy to let your mind slip and like, ‘Oh, I'm not gonna see the field, like C.J. is the guy.’ But it's definitely my mindset and in the front of my mind that you have to prepare like the starter, and that you really are one play away.”

McCord filled in to start for an injured Stroud as a true freshman, albeit against Akron, and the Philadelphia native said the experience was invaluable. As Stroud dealt with some early struggles to start the year, some thought McCord might have a shot to steal the starting job with a standout performance against the Zips.

Things started off shaky, but McCord eventually settled in to complete 72.2% of his passes with 319 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. It wasn’t enough to earn him any more starts on the year, but McCord still learned plenty in the process.

“I think last year, getting the chance to play was huge. I'm getting that opportunity to go out there and get game experiences. You know, it really did me a lot of good things,” McCord said. “And I think this year if that same opportunity happens, I know I'll be ready because I know what to expect. I know how to prepare like a starter and how to approach the game and stuff like that. So getting that opportunity last year is definitely huge.

“You can practice and you can watch film all you want, but nothing really compares to actually getting out there and playing a real game. And so that experience last year was awesome. And allowing me to get out there and learn and get in the flow of a game I think really helped push my progress in becoming a better quarterback to the next level.”

Ohio State quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis said the starting experience has done wonders for McCord, whose belief in himself has increased along with his command of the offense as a second-year Buckeye.

“His confidence is there. In the past, you think about guys like Dwayne Haskins coming in versus the team up north with no start under his belt or anything like that,” Dennis said last week. “So I think that was definitely big for Kyle and it definitely helped his confidence.”

McCord said Stroud’s been “like a big brother” to him since coming into the program, and McCord is trying to soak up as much information as possible from his stablemate about the finer details of the game.

After the starring success McCord enjoyed as a high school quarterback at St. Joseph’s Prep, falling in line as Stroud’s understudy going into the second season of his college career has been a challenge at times. But McCord said accepting his role and understanding the strides he has to take before becoming a full-time starter has come easier to him than it might for others.

“When you first get here, you go from being the man in high school and being the best on your team. And then when you get here, it's a really humbling experience,” McCord said. “And the faster you can embrace that and the faster you can understand, ‘OK, I gotta learn, I gotta get bigger, faster, stronger,’ the faster you can embrace that I feel like is the faster you can be able to start developing, start to take off. So I'm happy that I was able to see that pretty early on and realize that it's gonna be a long process getting better. There's not really one area where I can just kind of relax at, like I got to push myself in all those areas.”

At the same time, McCord doesn’t view himself as just a backup plan for the Buckeyes this season. Even if his reps don’t reflect it, McCord said his preparation has to be on par with Stroud’s own as he continues to work toward his ultimate goal.

“You just have to have the mindset of being the starter and holding yourself to that standard and being on your P’s and Q’s about watching film and the little details and practice and stuff like that. Because you really never know when that opportunity is gonna come,” McCord said. “So you really have to stay ready so you don't have to get ready, and that's kind of been my mindset this entire offseason.”

McCord said his fall camp is going “really well,” and Dennis said “you can see it.” While McCord’s impact on the team may end up being a non-factor this season, it might not be long before he has the ball in his hands on every play for the Buckeye offense – especially if he continues improving at the rate he has purported to thus far.

“The transition that I've made from year one, like this time last year to now, it's night and day and everything's starting to slow down,” McCord said. “You're understanding why coaches are calling plays and the ins and outs of the defense and stuff like that. So just taking that next step has been huge for me.”

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