Although Kyle McCord started all 12 of Ohio State’s games at quarterback during the regular season, Ryan Day isn’t ready to commit to McCord remaining the Buckeyes’ starter going forward.
While McCord played well enough for Ohio State to win its first 11 games of the year, his play this year hasn’t reached the heights of his predecessors C.J. Stroud, Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins. And the two interceptions he threw against Michigan played a big part in Ohio State suffering its third straight loss in The Game, keeping them out of this year’s Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff.
As a result, Ohio State is evaluating everything right now to determine what changes it must make to improve going forward. And Day said that specifically when asked Sunday if he thought McCord’s play this season had been at the level Ohio State needs from the quarterback position.
“When you come up short, the bottom line is you got to look at everything, because you didn't get it done. And that's the thing that is just sobering here,” Day said. “At 11-1, you come up short on the last possession, it's just not good enough. So you got to look at everything, and we will look at everything.”
When asked if McCord would be Ohio State’s starting quarterback next season, Day said it’s too early to begin making any decisions about 2024 considering Ohio State still has another game to play in 2023. But Day didn’t even firmly commit to McCord being the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback for the Cotton Bowl against Missouri, saying that he expects there to be competition at all positions during bowl practices leading up to that game on Dec. 29.
“That's kind of a long way away right now,” Day said. “We're gonna get back to work here. We had a practice last week, we'll have a practice coming up this weekend. And the guys will get out there and compete and grind and we'll take it from there. You know, I can't sit here and tell you I know for sure about any of those things right now.
“But everyone's gonna have an opportunity to compete and get after it during bowl practice and then when it's time to go play in the game, we'll figure out who should get the reps and then go from there. So yeah, I don't really have a great answer for that just yet.”
Asked specifically if it was possible that McCord could split snaps with Devin Brown or Lincoln Kienholz in the Cotton Bowl, Day said he was “not gonna really get into all that right now” but that “we'll just kind of see how practice goes.”
“When you come up short, the bottom line is you got to look at everything, because you didn't get it done.”– Ryan Day on a possible quarterback change
Even though a championship won’t be on the line, Day said Ohio State will set its depth chart for the Cotton Bowl based on who it believes will give it the best chance to win, though he said the door is open for less inexperienced players to earn the opportunity to play more against Missouri with their performance in bowl practices. Day said the Buckeyes will spread reps around to different players during bowl practices, especially in their earlier practices before they travel to Dallas for game week.
“There's a couple of different phases to the bowl practice. You kind of have your fundamental period and you have your game planning and then you have your practicing at the bowl site. And there'll be several practices to kind of get evaluation,” Day said. “We’ll be competitive early on, going against each other. And we'll keep looking at it, and ultimately, it's going to be, who gives you the best chance to win the game? But some of the young guys at certain positions will have an opportunity based on how they practice in the bowl practices.”
As for next year, one decision Ohio State does have to make before the Cotton Bowl is whether it will pursue a transfer addition at quarterback, given that the first transfer portal window of the offseason opens Monday. While Day didn’t say Sunday that Ohio State would pursue a transfer quarterback, he also didn’t completely close the door on the possibility.
“I mean, right now we're not actively out there searching for anything other than we'll see kind of what the next month brings in all positions. So I'm not gonna sit here and get into specifics on each of those positions,” Day said. “We like the guys that we have at a bunch of positions, but we're going to make sure that whether it's numbers or depth, that we have the right guys in the right spots.”
Ultimately, Ohio State must determine whether it believes McCord is good enough for the Buckeyes to achieve their major goals of beating Michigan and winning Big Ten championships and national championships. If it doesn’t believe that, it will have to decide whether another quarterback already on its roster can lead the Buckeyes to those goals next year or whether they need to bring in another quarterback to improve their chances.
Day didn’t answer directly when asked Sunday if he thinks McCord is good enough to win a championship at Ohio State, but he did praise the quarterback for his development over the course of the year.
“I think there was a lot of really good things this year,” Day said of McCord. “I think starting off at the beginning of the year and you can see some of the good things that were going on and I think as time went on, Kyle got better as the season went on. Had a little bit of those ankle injuries that he worked through, he showed toughness there. Certainly the Notre Dame game, he played really well down the stretch. So I think there was growth there, for sure. And I think he's a good quarterback, I do. So you just, after every year, you kind of evaluate everything, and try to figure out what to do next. But I think there was a lot of progress made this year.”