Devin Brown Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterback

Buckeyes Looking For A Quarterback To Believe In

Thursday was the 16th attempt for Ohio State head coach Ryan Day to find his next starting quarterback.

It was the first of 25 practices in fall camp, following 15 practices back in the spring. With so much depth on the team right now, the Buckeyes were able to practice simultaneously with split squads on side-by-side fields.

On one field, it was redshirt freshman Devin Brown. On the other, junior Kyle McCord. Both fields had the same scripts, so after watching a play happen on the field on the right, an observer could look quickly over to the left to see how the other quarterback handled a similar situation.

None of this was done in a vacuum, of course. Brown had the first-team offensive line for a portion of practice, while McCord had more starting receivers on his side. The two quarterbacks battling for the starting job were mixed and matched all day long.

Nobody was expecting a starting quarterback to be named. In fact, it’s too early to even expect Day to reveal a pecking order — if he even has done.

That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t love to have one, and love to be clear about it right now.

“You just never know how things are going to go, but in an ideal world, you’d love to have somebody emerge after the first week or two,” Day said after practice. “And they usually have that scrimmage on that second week on that Saturday and you usually have a pretty good feel.”

The Buckeyes are back on the practice fields Friday. Then they’ll have six more practices before that first scrimmage next Saturday. The respective performances will give the offensive coaching staff a better idea of how things are shaking out. It will also be an opportunity for somebody to possibly catch up. It can be a “moving day” if the performances are there.

But while Saturday will weigh heavily, much of the work has already been put in, and not all of it has been on the football field.

“A big part of it is who they are as people, what’s going on off the field, what’s going on in the locker room,” Day said. “Because those guys have to believe in the quarterback. And that’s a huge part of it.”

The quarterback must be a leader of not just the offense, but the entire team. Speaking with reporters on Thursday, both McCord and Brown cited their growth as leaders as the best thing they did in the offseason. Strength coach Mickey Marotti put both players in position to lead, and both players responded.

It was exactly what the coaches wanted to see, and now they’ll let the performances on the field continue to inform their decision on the quarterback situation. And even when that decision is made, there are still unknowns to work through, as Day explained when thinking back to quarterback CJ Stroud’s first start at Minnesota in 2021.

“You don’t know until you’re actually in the game,” he said. “I mean, to sit here and say we went into that Minnesota game with CJ saying that he’s going to be a Heisman Trophy finalist for the next two years, that wasn’t true. Shoot, after the first half, I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s gonna [happen],’ but you just have to figure it out and you keep growing and you keep building. Everybody’s different. All those guys are different.”

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This is now the fourth quarterback competition that Day has had to handle. In 2018, he oversaw the battle between Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow. The following year it was Justin Fields winning the job over Chris Chugunov and Gunnar Hoak 12 days before the first game. Then came CJ Stroud winning the job in 2021 over McCord and Jack Miller.

There are some differences, however. Haskins won the job by default once Burrow transferred. And Fields was far beyond his competition in 2019, and that’s no offense to the other competitors. In 2021, McCord moved past Miller in the competition, but it was going to be unlikely for a true freshman to win the job.

This year is the most open the competition has been since 2015 when Cardale Jones and JT Barrett battled it out.

“The good thing about both of these guys is they’ve been in the system for a little while,” Day said. “So Kyle is into year three, and Devin, into his second year. So that’s good. They know the system. But now they’ve got to go play. And when do you really know? Once you start playing games. But I think that’s part of it. Playing the position, coaching the position, and just seeing things in practice that you’re projecting to say, ‘Okay, we think that based on what we’re seeing in practice that they’re going to do well in the games.'”

The process is fully underway. The quarterbacks will be put through their paces until somebody stands out above the other.

But what if that doesn’t happen? Could the Buckeyes go into the season not knowing who their starter is, and playing both quarterbacks until one takes over?

“Yeah, I mean, somebody has to emerge to be the starter, for sure. Yeah,” Day said. “And if you don’t know, then you just keep pushing forward. I’d like somebody to step up and for that to happen, but you just don’t know.”

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