The Buckeyes are three weeks away from spring practice, which will also begin the on-field portion of the 2023 quarterback competition.
Two-year starter and multiple-record holder CJ Stroud is off to the NFL, and he takes his 8,123 yards passing and 85 touchdown passes with him. Replacing Stroud is an unenviable task being done by a pair of quarterbacks who are ready to be the envy of somebody else.
They will be on equal footing this spring, however. It’s the only way to make sure the right guy has been given his opportunity. Then once those opportunities have been utilized, head coach Ryan Day, quarterback coach Corey Dennis, offensive coordinator Brian Hartline, and the rest of the staff can get together and start to make some decisions on which way to go.
“I constantly assess players, and myself,” Hartline said. “I mean, I assess my five-year-old son. I can’t watch him play sports because I’m assessing him. That’s just what we do all the time. And I think the biggest thing to remind yourself sometimes is ‘new year, new identity.’ Some players are carryover, but there’s new players, and every year you have a new identity.
“These players look for a new opportunity to re-establish themselves — or to establish themselves — and giving them that opportunity, I think it’s critical. I think sometimes the byproduct of past years just gets stuck in your mind as a coach, which in your mind as a player, ‘Like, okay, hold on now. This is my next year, new opportunity.’ Maybe some older guys are gone, ‘my voice can be louder.’ So you gotta make sure as a coach you provide that platform to where those players can enhance themselves as well.”
This will be the Buckeyes’ most wide-open quarterback battle since 2018 when Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow battled all spring long. When no starter was named after spring ball, Burrow left the program and eventually transferred to LSU.
When asked if there was a danger in not naming a starting quarterback out of spring, Day was hopeful somebody would emerge, but not necessarily dependent upon it.
“I don’t know. I don’t know where we’ll be,” he said. “I hope that one of them emerges and we can name a starter, I really do. Because I think the way that our dynamic is, I think it’d be great for our program to be able to do that. There were times in the past where I just didn’t see that happening. I’m hoping that can happen. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But some vision on who the starter is coming out of the spring would be nice. So I’m hoping that one of them emerges here in these 15 practices.”
The sooner somebody emerges as the starter, the sooner this team will have its leader. Players and coaches will know who to turn to and who to entrust with the team’s goals.
But trust is a thing that must be earned, and it doesn’t operate on anybody’s preferred timeframe.
“Yeah, I don’t think it’s ever a rush,” Hartline said. “I’ll lean heavily on Coach Day with how that all goes down whenever people have an opinion and have a voice. But that quarterback room is pretty well established over the last four or five, six years and the standard in which they operate. And in Coach Day, obviously, is the reason for that, and Coach Dennis, so those guys will do a great job doing what they do. And I’m sure I’ll just be a part of the conversation.”
For Corey Dennis, his time will be spent putting both quarterbacks through the motions. But the process cannot be rushed, it can only be assessed.
“It might not be different, right?” Dennis said. “Like during the the competition in the past, you always want somebody to project and go and do it. But I’m on the same page as Coach Day, you hope someone jumps out and takes the reins and they’re the guy in the spring for sure.”