Football

Ohio State Pro Day 2023 Notebook: CJ Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba Solidified As QB1, WR1?

COLUMBUS — Ohio State held their annual Pro Day on Wednesday as 30 of the 32 NFL teams were on hand to get a closer look at future NFL draftees like quarterback CJ Stroud, wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, offensive tackles Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones, and others.

Stroud performed as expected. The quarterback was the last to perform on the afternoon, as he threw to Smith-Njigba, fullback Mitch Rossi, and current Buckeyes Marvin Harrison, Jr., Jayden Ballard, Xavier Johnson, and Cade Stover.

Asked if he felt like he made his case as the top player in the draft, Stroud didn’t see it that way.

“Oh, that’s not my job. My job is going here and do as best I can,” he said. “As myself, I’ll compete against myself every day to be the best version of myself. Because they always taught us to do so. Definitely just whatever happens happens, it’s not in my control. So there’s no reason to stress.”

Stroud measured in at 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds. He didn’t do any of the physical testing.

Why didn’t he run the 40?

“I don’t need to run the 40,” he said to a chuckling group of reporters. “I don’t think I really needed to. I think I have enough on film where I can show. None of the teams asked me to. If they would have, then I would have, but I don’t think I really needed to. I didn’t practice it. I think when I need to extend plays, I extend them just as fine as anybody else in the country. If not, you’ve got to watch the tape.”

Jaxon Back In Action

For the first time in about six months, Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was back on the OSU campus doing football activities in front of hundreds of onlookers.

Despite a sideline drop, Smith-Njigba looked just like his old self. So much so that he only ran the 40-yard dash once. Players are permitted to run it twice, but when Smith-Njigba was told his first time was clocked between 4.48 and 4.52, he was good with that and didn’t need to run it again.

Among the teams meeting with Smith-Njigba in the near future is the Chicago Bears, who hold the No. 9 pick overall. Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is now the Bears’ starting quarterback. Asked if he would like to play with Fields again, Smith-Njigba responded, “I would love to play with Justin.”

The Panthers and Saints were two teams he mentioned as well. He had dinner Tuesday night with the New York Giants, who draft 25th overall.

A Father’s Eye View

Parents of the participating Buckeyes were also on hand to watch their sons perform. One of those spectators was Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison, Sr., who got to watch his son catch footballs for CJ Stroud.

What does Harrison think of Stroud?

“I know CJ’s going to be a good quarterback,” he said. “More importantly than anything about CJ is he’s a leader and he’s a good person. That’s the first thing I noticed about him. ‘Hey, Mr. Harrison…’ ‘Like man, don’t call me Mr. Harrison, call me Marvin.’ He’s just a great guy and he showed his work ethic today.”

Harrison has watched Stroud throw passes to his son for a couple of years now. Prior to that, he watched Ohio State junior quarterback Kyle McCord throw to Marvin Jr. in high school at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia.

What are the Hall of Famer’s thoughts on McCord?

“Kyle’s a very competitive guy,” he said. “I’ve been around him for four or five years now. He’s been very patient. I’m sure he’s learned a lot over the last two or three years here, so his day is going to come sooner than later. We’re all going to be impressed with him.”

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Concerned Onlookers

A couple of Buckeyes decided not to participate today, and instead watched and supported their teammates. Safety Ronnie Hickman and right tackle Dawand Jones both opted out of workouts. For Jones, he felt he has shown the NFL enough, both on film and at the Combine, and he feels comfortable with his current situation.

“I feel good, but there’s always room for improvement, on and off the field,” he said.

As to where he’s been hearing he’ll end up on draft day?

“I’ve been hearing early first to late second,” Jones said. “Wherever will be a blessing.”

Part Of The Club

CJ Stroud wasn’t the only Ohio State quarterback performing on the day. The quarterback of Ohio State’s two-time national championship club football team was also on hand. Kellyn Gerenstein wasn’t throwing the ball, however, he was working out as a defensive back.

The 5-foot-9 prospect ran a 4.53 hand-timed 40-yard dash. He became the fourth club football member to participate in OSU’s Pro Day, joining Chris Booker (2022), Eli Goins (2018), and Chris Fong (2016). Gerenstein, however, is the only one of the four to accomplish the feat without ever playing for the varsity Buckeyes.

The Running Man

The first thing that most people want to know about pro day performances are the 40 times.

“How fast did they run?”

It’s a simple measure that often makes or breaks the way some people view a pro day or combine performance.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba certainly helped himself by breaking the 4.50 barrier. Teams weren’t necessarily expecting low 4.4s, but his times were low enough to confirm what most believed — he’s fast enough.

Safety Tanner McCalister ran a 4.44, which was the best number of the day for the Buckeyes. Cornerback Cam Brown was hoping to run better than his 4.53.

When Zach Harrison was asked why he didn’t run the 40, he provided a very expansive answer.

“Reasons,” he said.

The Full Results

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