Skull Session: Ohio State's QB Likely to Run More in 2023, Urban Meyer Weighs in on the Buckeye QB Battle and Paris Johnson Jr. Could Be Headed to Chicago

By Chase Brown on March 15, 2023 at 5:00 am
Kyle McCord / Devin Brown
Adam Cairns / Columbus Dispatch

Before Brian Hartline became the best wide receiver coach in the nation and was promoted to offensive coordinator, he was a pretty good pass catcher in his own right for the Buckeyes.

Just have a look at this highlight from the former No. 9.

Let's have a good Wednesday, shall we?

 A DIFFERENT DYNAMIC. When C.J. Stroud reflected on his Ohio State career at the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago, the future first-round pick said he wished he would have run the ball more for the scarlet and gray.

"I didn't do it a lot in college," Stroud said. "I feel like I should have, and that's something I regret. I feel like I could have done it a lot more."

Kyle McCord and Devin Brown heard those words loud and clear as they battle to be Stroud's successor in 2023, understanding Ohio State's offense is a different beast with a dual-threat quarterback. Indeed, the kind of beast that scored 41 points against top-ranked Georgia in the College Football Playoff, and that was without Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson for the entire game and Marvin Harrison Jr. for most of the second half.

Yeah, that's good stuff.

Ryan Day also understands Ohio State's offense can evolve after Stroud's performance in the CFP. In a press conference last week, Day said he doesn't need his quarterback to be "superhuman," but he would like to see McCord or Brown become playmakers with their feet as much as their arms – at least enough to make defenses respect their ability to run.

“I think any time a defense has to account for the quarterback, then you’ve got what you want to be done in the run game,” Day said. “What’s really the X-factor on offense is when the quarterback is moving. ... You have to get a feel for what that is: How long do you stay in the pocket? When do you escape? When do you launch yourself for the first down? When do you protect yourself? It’s a long season. Each quarterback is a little bit different.”

McCord's 6-foot-3, 222-pound frame resembles Stroud's (6-foot-3, 213 pounds), which makes Stroud's film from his more run-heavy performances like Northwestern and Georgia incredibly valuable.

“I think I’ve watched that game probably five or 10 times just because there were so many good plays in that game,” McCord said on March 7. “If it’s there, take it, but at the same time, we have so many weapons that I want to keep my eyes up and get the ball to our playmakers.”

As for Brown, who stands at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and is a player many believe to have an "athletic edge" over McCord, running the football comes more naturally and extends beyond an "if it's there, take it" approach. After running a pro-style, under-center offense for his coach Joe Germaine, a former Ohio State quarterback, in Queen Creek, Arizona, Brown moved to Draper, Utah, and spent his final high school season in a spread offense.

“We didn’t hand the ball off that much, but when I had runs, it was good for me just to be able to find my athleticism and make guys miss,” Brown said. “I was able to do that when guys weren’t there to make plays. And I think it just added on as the year went on.”

Brown added – and I love this – that he is somewhere "between Justin Fields and C.J. Stroud in terms of (his) play," showing a running ability that resembles Fields, admittedly with less athleticism than the former Buckeye and current Bears quarterback, and an arm that resembles Stroud as "there is not a throw (he) cannot make."

With the competition fully in gear, whether McCord or Brown will be QB1 for Ohio State remains to be seen. But this much should be expected from whoever wins: They will look to run when they can, and they may make people miss when they do it.

 URBAN'S TAKE. As I said in the paragraph above, the battle between McCord and Brown has, for the most part, just started. I'm sure Day, quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis, offensive coordinator Brian Hartline and the rest of the staff have their favorite, but I believe the competition is as open today as it was after Stroud announced his decision to turn pro.

In a recent episode of Urban's Take with Tim May, former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said if Day is wise, he'll leave that competition open for as long as possible. Otherwise, he may risk losing one of them to the transfer portal.

“The one thing that you’d like to do is find your guy and find him early and get moving. The negative is that if you do that early the other guy will probably leave and then you’re stuck. We had many battles. I had JT (Barrett) and Cardale (Jones) battle. We had Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins, two future first-rounders. I had other battles that you just kind of want to hang in there as long as you can because, first of all, you want to be fair to both players and the reality is, especially now, they’re gone. The day of a third-string quarterback like Cardale Jones hanging around for four years, that’s not going to happen. They’re going to go to greener pastures somewhere and go play. I’ve not talked directly about that to Coach Day, but I’m sure that’s on the back of his mind saying, ‘I’ve got two.' He feels good about those two quarterbacks, they’ve been around, they’re talented. But what happens once you name a starter?”

If I could sum all Meyer's words up into two, they would be: Tread carefully. And I think Day will. He handled the quarterback competition involving Stroud, McCord and Jack Miller III well. I expect him to do the same this offseason with McCord and Brown.

I know Day wants to be fair to McCord and Brown, allowing the loser to find those greener pastures as Meyer did with Burrow in 2018 – a thought made evident by his hope to have a winner by the end of the spring. However, for the greater good of Ohio State, Day needs to hold out on an official decision for as long as possible, or else one scary hit, awkward fall or unexpected attack from the turf monster could require Tristan Gebbia or Lincoln Kienholz to play quarterback. With Ohio State's weapons, would that be the worst thing in the world? No. But it would significantly decrease the Buckeyes' chances of accomplishing their goals.

That said, Day would benefit tremendously from waiting, perhaps even until the week before the Indiana game to announce his starter, similar to how he handled the announcement of Stroud before the Minnesota game in 2021.

And good on him for it.

May the best man win.

 PARIS TO CHICAGO? The Chicago Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for the No. 9 overall pick, a 2023 second-round pick, a first-round pick in 2024, a second-round pick in 2025 and wide receiver DJ Moore.

All the talk around the trade is about the Panthers moving up to select Stroud with the first pick and the Bears holding onto Justin Fields. However, when all is said and done, Stroud may not be the only Buckeye involved in the aftermath of this deal.

With Chicago now at No. 9 overall, the Bears could address their offensive line strength after allowing an abysmal 54 sacks last season. The answer to making that unit stronger could just be Ohio State's Paris Johnson Jr., who allowed only two sacks and 12 pressures in 13 games for the Buckeyes in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus

While the Bears will certainly explore their options, Johnson made it known that he would be happy to protect Fields for the second time in his career, this time wearing navy blue and burnt orange instead of scarlet and gray.

"I used to beat him in Madden all the time," Johnson said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He knows, you can tell him. But that's my guy. He’s an amazing quarterback. He's smart. He's accurate. And it would be an honor to be back with him again.”

An amazing and smart quarterback with an amazing and smart offensive lineman? Sounds like a match made in heaven to me. Da Bears will be just one phone call away from having Fields' blindside protected for a long, long time, which means a whole lot more plays like these in his future:

 IT'S MARCH MADNESS, BABY. I love basketball. I love March. I love basketball in March. There is no greater way to describe it than the seven-letter word "Madness." With that in mind, let's look back on some of the March Madness-like moments in the history of Ohio State basketball, which include buzzer beaters and go-ahead jumpers from Ron Lewis, Aaron Craft and – holy name drop – LaQuinton Ross.

While Ohio State is not in the Big Dance this year, I know every one of you has filled out a bracket for 2023. That's the beauty of the NCAA Tournament.

Yeah, sure, it would be nice to have the Buckeyes competing for a national championship, but does them missing the tournament keep me from watching the other games? Heck no. The First Four continues tonight, and the tournament begins tomorrow. Bring on the buzzer beaters. Bring on the Madness. This is March.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Do I Wanna Know?" by The Arctic Monkeys.

 CUT TO THE CHASE. Division III Denison (Ohio) University beats Arcadia, 25-23, in a game that took over 24 hours over a two-day stretch... Part of mall roof in Duluth collapses under weight of snow... Puerto Rico breaks world record as baseball fans go blond... In unusual step, U2 reinterprets 40 of its best-known songs... "Ted Lasso" Season 3 took forever, but Jason Sudeikis promises fans "it's all on the screen."

View 62 Comments