Nobody really expected Ohio State head coach Ryan Day to name a starting quarterback coming out of spring ball, and losing redshirt freshman Devin Brown to a finger injury in the final week only solidified the need for the competition to continue.
McCord completed 18-of-34 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t perfect, and rarely had time to try to be. Throughout the game and well afterward, the offensive line was a talking point. They had their issues pass blocking for both McCord and Gebbia. The Buckeyes were also without receivers Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, and Xavier Johnson, and All-American Marvin Harrison only played a handful of series in the first half.
All in all, it’s not the most ideal way to evaluate a quarterback, which Ryan Day acknowledged would be taken into account when they go back and grade this one practice.
“Oh, yeah, you take all those things into consideration? Yeah, for sure,” Day said. “And I know Devin was excited about playing in this game, so not being able to was disappointing for him. But I thought Tristan and Kyle both were out there competing, and it wasn’t always a clean pocket, wasn’t always a clean look on the back end.
“But I did like the throw [McCord] had for the touchdown. Being able to make those throws are big down the field. When you have an opportunity to make those downfield throws, that’s been the difference for us. When we’re explosive, we’re at our best football, and so that was a step in the right direction.”
The throw that Day was referencing was a fourth-quarter 37-yard shot to true freshman receiver Carnell Tate. It was McCord’s long completion of the day and his lone touchdown pass.
Give Some Credit To The Defense
All spring long, the Ohio State coaches have been saying this defense is moving faster and more decisively than they were a year ago. They showed that on Saturday even in their most basic alignments. The defense put arm strength and accuracy to the test, just as they had done all spring long.
“I think Kyle and Devin both have strong arms,” Day said. “They can make that field throw. When you’re playing against drop eight and you’re playing against zone coverage like that, they’re gonna drop pretty hard and rely a little bit on the drop-back pass. Once you get into drop-back pass, you’re seeing those guys drop into the zones, and then you have to really negotiate the zones. I thought when we did call a couple of the play-actions and the RPO at the end there where guys are down the line of scrimmage and creating more of that run-pass conflict, it opened up some more windows.”
The RPO came from Gebbia and led to a 57-yard catch-and-run by another true freshman wide receiver, Noah Rogers.
But nothing Day saw from the Ohio State defense had him thinking it was too much for McCord to handle. And nothing they asked McCord to do was beyond his ability.
“I think Kyle can do all of those,” Day said. “We’ve seen them do that, where he can make all those throws, he can handle play action, he can handle RPO, he can handle the drop-back pass, he can make the field throws. So he definitely has the skill set.”
A Standard To Live Up To
In Ryan Day’s first six seasons at Ohio State — with the first two of those as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator — the Buckeyes have had the unanimous First-Team All-Big Ten quarterback in all six years.
In those six seasons, there have also been four Heisman finalist appearances. And JT Barrett — who started in 2017 — will soon be the only starting quarterback under Day not to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
To put it another way, there is an incredible standard and legacy for Ohio State’s starting quarterback in 2023 to live up to. It would almost be considered impossible if not for the fact that all of the other starters under Day had already done it.
The other common theme among them is that prior to winning the starting job their first time, none of them were as ready as they’d eventually be once the season began. There is still growth and improvement coming, and it can even continue into the season as everybody saw back in 2021 with CJ Stroud.
Basically, where the Ohio State quarterbacks are right now isn’t where they’ll be come September.
“I think what you saw in the game was similar to what you’ve seen in practice,” Day said of McCord. “Some good things, some things that you’d like to see a little bit better. But he’s growing. I think that the picture sometimes was clean, other times not as clean. I think Marvin only played a couple drives there and then he was out, and certainly not having Emeka and Julian and those guys.
“But you saw there was some sparks. I thought the throw to Carnell was an excellent one. But there’s stuff that he wants to look to improve on. So we’ll get on the film and figure out what that was. It’s hard out there because there’s so much going on. It’s going fast because you’re calling it back and forth. So overall, 15 practices and there was improvement there.”