Ohio State quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis understands the curiosity about who the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback will be this season, but it’s a question he’s not yet ready to answer.
With 15 spring practices complete but a full preseason camp still to go, Dennis says that not only the evaluation process but the developmental process for Kyle McCord and Devin Brown is still ongoing with more than three months still to go until the 2023 season begins.
“I know everybody wants to talk about the quarterback battle or competition, but we're still in the process of worrying about yourself and getting better,” Dennis said Tuesday. “And I think that when you worry about yourself and you maximize who you can become, then the other stuff kind of takes care of itself.”
McCord, who has been at Ohio State for one year longer than Brown and has played in 12 games with one start over his first two years as a Buckeye, has been the presumptive frontrunner in the quarterback competition all offseason. He took all of the first-team reps in the spring game, which Brown was unable to play in due to a finger injury, and improved over the course of the Buckeyes’ 15 spring practices in the eyes of Dennis.
“I think quarterback’s a cool position, it’s a unique position. It’s a position where you have to take reps to get better, and it was a really cool spring for him, the amount of reps that he got,” Dennis said. “And so, he’s continued to progress. He’s obviously become more comfortable in the offense. And so, that’ll be pretty good for him. I thought he had a good spring.”
That said, McCord didn’t do enough this spring to lock up the starting job. While Ryan Day said at the beginning of spring that he hoped a starting quarterback would emerge by the end of spring, Ohio State hasn’t picked a starter yet. Dennis said Tuesday that he does not have a target date for when he wants to have a starter named.
While Brown was sidelined for the final week of spring practices due to his injury, he is back to throwing now, keeping him in the thick of the competition as the Buckeyes go through summer workouts and eventually into preseason camp in August.
“He's awesome. He's doing good. He's healthy. He's getting back to it,” Dennis said of Brown.
While neither Brown nor McCord has separated himself from the other yet in the starting competition, Dennis saw growth from both of them this spring and a hunger from both of them to keep getting better as the offseason continues.
“I think you go into it and you have an expectation of what it's going to be, but then just them learning and growing and loving the process, I mean, that's been awesome,” Dennis said. “Both those guys, I mean, they're grinding every single day. They both want to be great. And so we're excited to see what they do the rest of the summer moving forward.”
“I know everybody wants to talk about the quarterback battle or competition, but we're still in the process of worrying about yourself and getting better.”– Corey Dennis
Offensive coordinator Brian Hartline has also seen a desire for greatness from both quarterbacks, which gives him confidence the Buckeyes’ offense will ultimately be in good hands.
“I would just say the way they work,” Hartline said when asked what stood out to him from the quarterbacks this spring. “Not just the allotted time that we were given, they work outside those lines, as far as on their own and with the guys. Both guys spent a lot of time that way. The way they compete, the way they still give each other opponent pointers, the way they do everything, frankly, is very encouraging. And the competition's only going to drive both of them. So all of those reasons are why I'm very confident in the end process.”
Whoever wins the first-string quarterback job will be stepping into massive shoes. Each of Ohio State’s last three starters – C.J. Stroud, Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins – have been Big Ten Offensive Players of the Year, Heisman Trophy finalists and top-15 NFL draft picks. Dennis acknowledged that gives the new quarterback a high bar to live up to, but he says neither McCord nor Brown is shying away from that.
“They understand, they're all competitive guys, they see what it takes. They saw the effort that C.J. put in, they know what it takes to be a great quarterback,” Dennis said. “So there's definitely a standard that those guys want to uphold for themselves, for sure.”
If McCord and Brown didn’t have the talent to meet that standard, they wouldn’t have both been top-50 overall prospects in that class. Whether either of them will be ready to meet this standard this year remains quarterback, but Dennis believes both of them are capable of being Ohio State’s next great signal-caller.
“At the end of the day with both of those guys, they wouldn't be at Ohio State competing for the starting job if they didn't have elite traits and elite characteristics, both of them,” Dennis said.