It’s almost football season, and we finally have a clearer picture of the most interesting quarterback battle in college football, as Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day recently announced who his team’s starter will be in Week 1.
The Buckeyes are coming off back-to-back trips to the College Football Playoff with one of the best quarterbacks in program history, Justin Fields. But now their next QB must try to replace Fields’ unreal production in Columbus.
So, who will start for the Buckeyes? Day said on Saturday that redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud will be the team’s starter in Week 1. However, given the unusual circumstances for Ohio State, Day’s job is far from over, and Stroud has every reason to be looking over his shoulder.
Replacing Justin Fields on Ohio State’s football team will be difficult
Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State from Georgia in 2019, and he immediately made the Buckeyes one of the best teams in college football.
As a sophomore, Fields threw for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns, and three interceptions, but also ran for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns, which helped him finish third in the Heisman Trophy race. His play led the Buckeyes to a 13-0 start before they lost to Clemson in the College Football Playoff, 29-23.
Fields then returned and had another big year in a COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, throwing for 2,100 yards, 22 touchdowns, and six interceptions in only eight games. He also ran for 383 yards and five touchdowns, and he led the Buckeyes to the national championship game.
The former five-star finished his Ohio State career with 5,373 passing yards, 867 rushing yards, and 78 total touchdowns in 22 games. He then went to the Chicago Bears with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Now, Fields must focus on his pro career while Ohio State has to figure out how to replace him, and, for now, it appears Stroud is the man who must take on that responsibility.
Ryan Day named C.J. Stroud as Ohio State’s starting quarterback
Ryan Day’s Ohio State football team has had an interesting quarterback battle this offseason. The Buckeyes not only have C.J. Stroud, who was a 2020 four-star recruit within 247Sports’ composite rating system, but they also have Jack Miller, another 2020 four-star, and Kyle McCord, a five-star in 2021.
If the potential for those three didn’t make Day’s job hard enough, he then saw one of the highest-rated recruits of all time, Quinn Ewers, switch from the 2022 class to 2021 due to the NCAA’s new name, image, and likeness policy. Ewers, a five-star, was a higher-rated prospect than Trevor Lawrence and is the best recruit in Ohio State history, but he only enrolled and started practicing with the Buckeyes recently.
With all these variables in play, Day announced on Aug. 21 that Stroud will be the team’s starter in Week 1.
“I thought over the body of work between the spring and also through the preseason, he separated himself with his decision-making, his leadership skills, his accuracy,” Day said, according to ESPN. “Now we’ve got to prepare him to play a game.”
So, Stroud is officially getting the job, but he shouldn’t feel safe in that position.
The Ohio State football team’s quarterback battle is far from over
Just because Stroud will start for Ohio State at the beginning of the year doesn’t mean he will be in that position the rest of the season.
“The other guys in the room understand that this is a long season and that room has to be strong,” Day said, per the Associated Press. “We know at Ohio State that it takes everybody in that room, so that room needs to continue to work. It’s a long way to January and that’s been the message. The focus has to continue to be about development, but also to encourage the other guys in that room.”
“Long way to January” is the most significant comment in that quote. If Stroud doesn’t give the Buckeyes the best chance to win a title, Day may very well turn to Miller, McCord, or Ewers.
While Stroud is athletic and has a strong arm, Miller was also a four-star for a reason, and McCord can also supposedly throw it really well. Ewers, on the other hand, may be one of the best passers college football has ever seen and has the potential to become the best QB on that roster once he has more than just a week of experience in the program.
So, all in all, the Ohio State football team will likely be one of the best squads in the country this year. But given the talented skills each Buckeye QB possesses, the starter at the end of the season could be entirely different than who starts in Week 1.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference