C.J. Stroud Leads Ohio State QB Battle, Week 1 Starter Still TBD, per HC Ryan Day

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 16, 2021

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 17:  Quarterback C.J. Stroud #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action during the Spring Game at Ohio Stadium on April 17, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said Monday that redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud is leading the Buckeyes' quarterback competition, but a decision about the Sept. 2 season opener against Minnesota hasn't been finalized.

"I don't know how much separation. I'm not sure, but every day he's been competing, he's been taking care of the football, making good decisions, he's been a leader," Day told reporters. "Those are all some of the traits we've been looking for. Certainly moving the team down the field to score touchdowns is something we've been looking for."

Stroud is battling Jack Miller and Kyle McCord to replace Justin Fields atop the OSU quarterback depth chart after Fields was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.

Day noted the quarterbacks know where they stand heading into the final weeks of training camp, but he's stressed to all of them it'll be important to stay ready, regardless of where they stand when the campaign kicks off against the Golden Gophers.

"It's a long season, that's what I think all those guys understand and will continue to understand," he said. "We're talking about going all the way till January, so my experience is we're going to need everybody. One thing's for sure: There's going to be one starter in terms of that first play against Minnesota, and at that point, we'll see where it goes."

Stroud emerged from the Buckeyes' spring game as the favorite for the starting spot. He completed 14 of his 19 throws for 175 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, leading his squad to a 28-13 victory. 

The four-star prospect out of Rancho Cucamonga High School in California spent most of last year as a little-used reserve, but he did produce one electric play—a 48-yard touchdown run in a December blowout of Michigan State.

"I feel I can throw the ball with anyone," Stroud told reporters in early August. "I can run the ball with anyone. I feel like I'm one of the best players in the country."

Ohio State has also added Quinn Ewers, the top-ranked recruit in the 2022 class, to its practices as he's opted to skip his senior season of high school in order to enroll early to take advantage of the new name, image and likeness (NIL) rules.

Day called it a "unique situation," but he doesn't think Ewers' presence will impact this year's squad.

"It's just one of those things, we have to start embracing different situations like this, and I know our guys are going to do the same thing. They'll embrace him," Day said. "We've had high-profile guys come into the program, that happens here. He'll do a good job of working his way in, earning the respect of the team."

The Buckeyes, who ranked fourth in both the Coaches and Associated Press preseason polls, won't have much margin for error in the early going as they face Oregon (No. 11 AP, No. 12 Coaches) in Week 2 after opening against a Big Ten rival in Minnesota.

It'll increase the pressure on Stroud to make an instant impact if he holds off Miller and McCord to win the starting job.