Kyle McCord has spent his first two years as a Buckeye backing up starting quarterback CJ Stroud. He is one of the few who has remained patient in the age of the transfer portal. He has waited for his turn, but also prepared every day for it as well.
In those two years as the backup, McCord has played in 12 games and thrown 58 passes. In that time, he has also seen how precise an Ohio State quarterback needs to be and what it takes to get the job done at the level the program requires. Stroud was a two-time Heisman finalist who completed nearly 70% of his passes the past two seasons, for instance.
In fact, four of the last five years for the Buckeyes have featured a Heisman finalist quarterback, and the only year that didn’t, saw Justin Fields lead the Buckeyes to the national title game in 2020.
There is a lot to live up to as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, and McCord saw it first hand watching everything that Stroud went through the past two years. Even if his time on the field was mostly in practice, the time was never wasted.
“I didn’t start my freshman year of high school,” McCord said. “I was a backup, and it was kind of the same situation. A kid had already established the job. One thing the coaches kept preaching to me was just get better every single day because you never know when that opportunity is going to come. I finally got an opportunity to play my sophomore year. That year of not playing really helped me develop myself. I don’t know if I’d be ready to play as a freshman. So I think it was good just to kind of get that experience as a young freshman in high school, not starting, making sure I was getting better every single day in practice. It’s been kind of the same situation here.”
The Spring In Kyle McCord’s Step
Kyle McCord and Devin Brown will be competing for the starting job this spring. McCord has a year on Brown, who was a true freshman this past season. This will be the first real opportunity for either player to compete for the starting job, but it won’t be the start of McCord’s preparation.
It hasn’t been easy to sit and wait, but it’s not like it’s easy to start either. Being the quarterback at Ohio State is unrelenting. It’s not for everybody, but McCord has been working to be ready for whatever is required, and then some.
No opportunities can go wasted because everything counts. The mental reps, the physical reps, the questions and answers, have all been delivered with the purpose of winning this job. And now it’s closer than it’s ever been.
“One-hundred percent. Just being a competitor, you want to be on the field, you want to play, you want to be that guy,” McCord admitted. “But at the same time, I think you have to realize that if you’re not playing on the field, you’re developing, you’re getting better at your craft. So keeping that in mind, you stay motivated to keep going. Never settle, never be complacent because I’m not on the field right now like ‘I can chill, I can take my foot off the gas.’ So just continuing to preach development and getting better and putting one foot in front of the other every single day.”
Follow The Leader
The next Ohio State quarterback will need to continue being as precise as a surgeon, but also be the kind of leader that everybody else wants to follow. The leadership aspect can be difficult for a backup quarterback to develop, but McCord has been focusing on being a leader well before now.
“The coaches have been preaching to me to be a leader as much as you can,” McCord said. “Be vocal, lead by example, all that. I’ve really been trying to do that with the twos. I take over that huddle, especially with some of the younger receivers, you know, kind of talking to them about what I see, what I want them to do on the field. I’m kind of acting like the starter with the twos, so I mean, that’s been really good preparation I feel like. That’s kind of where my main focus is going and has been.”
Spring ball is less than two months away. Kyle McCord will begin camp as the favorite for the job. His experience in the offense will likely have him taking the first snaps. But it will be a competition. McCord understands that, but it doesn’t change his mindset, and it never has.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s been my mindset since I got here is that I want to be the starter,” he explained. “And that hasn’t changed, whether it’s starting against Akron, or being the backup, or whatever the case may be, it’s just always been my mindset. So now that CJ is gone, that’s not going to change. I’m still gonna prepare like the starter, and — mentally in my mind — act like it.”