Patience required as Ohio State begins development process at quarterback
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Patience required as Ohio State begins development process at quarterback

Tim May9 months
Article written by:Tim MayTim May

TIM_MAYsports

CJ Stroud by Birm-Lettermen Row
Ohio State has a key quarterback competition playing out this spring. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

COLUMBUS — As Ohio State stepped lively into its first full-pads, full-contact session of the spring this week, the first impressions made by the three quarterback candidates in real football conditions were going to be important.

But the lasting impressions over the next several weeks — heck, probably even through the month of August of preseason camp — are going to tell the tale for second-year Buckeyes C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller III along with freshman Kyle McCord.

As Buckeyes coach Ryan Day indicated this week, deciding on a new starting quarterback – or deciding who won’t be the new starter — can’t be based simply on just a knee-jerk reaction to one series in a scrimmage drill or one practice.

“You can’t label somebody early on, because it’s such a developmental position,” said Day, whose discerning eye has been honed by helping decide on starting quarterbacks for 10 years now at several places, including two seasons in the NFL. “You think about some of the guys who have made it to the NFL, along the line they’ve hit adversity somewhere. It’s who can kind of handle that adversity and work to get better.

“So yeah, it doesn’t all come at once. It’s all part of the process, part of the learning.”

Jack Miller-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Jack Miller is in the mix to start at Ohio State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The vibe that comes from the candidates is important, too. That is picked up over time, not just from hitting, say, Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson or Jeremy Ruckert dead in stride on one go route or deep out in the middle of one practice.

Stroud, Miller and McCord already have proven themselves capable as elite passers; they’re on campus and on scholarship, after all. But do they consistently exude leadership and resilience, for examples? Day, quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson are watching constantly for the “little” things.

“You get around guys and you start to get a feel for how much it matters for them,” Day said. “In the end, that’s the thing I’ve found with enough quarterbacks, if they have enough talent, if they care enough, and if they want it bad enough, then usually it will work out for them. That’s something we keep an eye on.”

Again, everyone is watching. It’s hard not to, considering the lasting impact the last four quarterback starters – J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields – have made on the Ohio State record book. The coaches especially are looking for the most capable next pilot to take the controls of what promises to be another loaded offense.

The current quarterback pool appears to be quite deep, and it’s hard not to notice, running backs coach Tony Alford offered.

“Extremely talented guys,” Alford said. “They all have big arms and can throw it and are great kids. I know they’re not steeped in experience, but what I have seen from them, from outside the room watching them, they are all highly competitive guys … they seem really good together, and they help one another out.

“Corey does a great job with them. And we brought in [offensive quality control coach] Todd Fitch, who I worked with in previous years at Iowa State, I’ve known him back to my college days at Colorado State … so I’ve known Todd for a long time. Phenomenal, phenomenal coach, great knowledge.”

Which means the quarterback candidates are being exposed to experienced coaching and judging. The process will define the starter, not whimsy based simply one great play or practice.

“On the field we just want to keep building, put one foot in front of the other, and don’t label early on,” Day said. “Just let it play out, let these guys compete.”

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