Breaking down the candidates to be C.J. Stroud’s substitute at Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was a slim window in early December that coaches at Ohio State described as integral to the early phases of an ongoing quarterback competitors to switch C.J. Stroud, the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year who would ultimately declare for the NFL draft.

The sequence of practices head coach Ryan Day and quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis referred to coincided with Stroud’s second journey to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Without Stroud to run the present, backups Kyle McCord and Devin Brown break up the first-team reps throughout three consecutive practices in what amounted to a preview of their forthcoming battle to be named Ohio State’s starter in 2023.

“Those guys were able to step up,” Day stated in a information convention on National Signing Day, “and we had some really competitive practices in there. We were actually able to see those guys compete, and it was good to see. I think at the end of the day, both of them do things a little bit different in their skill sets. But the guy who’s the leader — there’s a lot of different ways to do it — and [the guy who] is competitively tough is gonna ultimately win the job.”

Replacing Stroud is not any straightforward activity. The former five-star prospect from the 2020 recruiting cycle received 21 of the 25 video games he began for Ohio State and earned All-America honors in back-to-back seasons. He threw for 8,123 yards and 85 touchdowns throughout that stretch whereas setting 16 faculty information and three convention information. He’s the primary quarterback in Big Ten historical past to throw for 30 touchdowns in consecutive years.

A portion of that success may be ascribed to Stroud’s uber-talented teammates — particularly on the Buckeyes’ perennially-loaded talent positions — and the quarterbacks vying for his spot will profit from one of many deepest receiving corps within the nation. Wideouts Marvin Harrison Jr. (1,263 yards and 14 TDs); Emeka Egbuka (1,151 yards and 10 TDs); Julian Fleming (533 yards, six TDs) and tight finish Cade Stover (406 yards, 5 TDs) are all returning in 2023.

“When you look at the guys that are surrounding [them] and the cast that is surrounding them,” Day stated, “I mean, you couldn’t be more excited to be a quarterback right now in college football.”

Day’s plan is to facilitate an open competitors between McCord and Brown throughout the 15 spring practices, one in all which would be the annual intra-squad scrimmage in April. The objective is to construction these periods in a manner that locations each quarterbacks in as many game-like situations as attainable with the hope that one in all them seizes management of the competitors.

In an ideal world, Day stated he would like to call a starter by the top of spring ball however isn’t against extending the battle into the preseason if mandatory. And whereas many imagine McCord is the odds-on favourite, Day and his assistants shunned discussing the strengths and weaknesses of both participant throughout final week’s media session to keep away from displaying any form of favoritism.

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They spoke with extra element about anticipated third-string quarterback Lincoln Kienholz, a real freshman who received’t arrive till the summer season, and sure fourth-string quarterback Tristan Gebbia, an Oregon State switch who will navigate the season in a hybrid participant/graduate assistant function, than the first contenders for the beginning job.

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“At the end of the day, it’s going to be the guy that our team believes in and the coaching staff believes in that can lead our team to a championship,” Day stated. “That’s not always clear, you know? It sometimes can be a little gray. But you do the best you can.”

Here’s a more in-depth have a look at the candidates:

Kyle McCord 

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 222 kilos

Class: Rising junior

Hometown: Mount Laurel, New Jersey (St. Joseph’s Prep in Pennsylvania)

Recruiting: Five-star prospect rated No. 28 total and No. 6 QB in 2021

McCord was Ohio State’s main backup the final two seasons and enters this 12 months’s competitors because the doubtless successor to Stroud. He accomplished 16 of 20 passes for 190 yards and a landing whereas enjoying 67 snaps of mop-up responsibility in 2022, most of which got here in wins over Toledo (14 snaps) and Michigan State (16 snaps). Sixteen of his 20 move makes an attempt traveled 9 yards or fewer downfield, in line with Pro Football Focus, together with his lone try of greater than 20 yards producing a 72-yard landing. He was blitzed on 20% of his dropbacks and completed 3-of-4 for 29 yards in these conditions.

One of McCord’s largest benefits is his enjoying expertise from the 12 months prior, in 2021, when he performed 95 complete snaps and began the sport in opposition to Akron. McCord accomplished 13 of 18 passes for 319 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 59-7 win over the Zips that gave the teaching workers an concept of how he would carry out with elevated duties. He unfold the ball to all elements of the sector with 4 passes behind the road of scrimmage (89 yards, one TD), six passes that traveled between zero yards and 10 yards downfield (29 yards, one INT); two passes that traveled between 10 and 20 yards downfield (108 yards) and 5 passes that traveled no less than 20 yards downfield (93 yards, one TD). His NFL passer ranking was 128.2.

It’s value noting McCord was highschool teammates with Harrison at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, the place he threw for six,887 yards and 88 touchdowns.

“He’s grown,” Day stated. “And I think he’s done a good job of it. His attitude has been excellent. He’s very hardworking. Now it’s time to go put it on the field and compete.”

Devin Brown

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 210 kilos

Class: Rising sophomore

Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona (Corner Canyon High School in Utah)

Recruiting: Four-star prospect rated No. 43 total and No. 6 QB in 2022

Brown was third on the depth chart as a real freshman in 2022 after enrolling early. He performed 9 snaps in opposition to Toledo and 6 snaps in opposition to Rutgers however by no means tried a move. His ultimate stat line for the season was one carry for one yard within the 77-21 win over the Rockets.

A key distinction between McCord and Brown is type of play. The former is seen as a pocket passer and has run the ball 12 occasions for minus-12 yards the final two seasons after being timed at 5.07 seconds within the 40-yard sprint throughout a recruiting occasion in 2019. The latter is extra more likely to get exterior the pocket or use his legs to maneuver the chains as evidenced by 430 speeding yards and eight speeding touchdowns as a senior in highschool. Brown, who additionally threw for 4,881 yards and 57 touchdowns that season, was timed at 4.8 seconds within the 40-yard sprint on the Elite 11 Finals in 2021.

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“He’s athletic, he’s mobile, he can extend plays a little bit,” Dennis stated. “Not saying that Kyle can’t do those things, but I would say that that’s something for Devin is kind of his niche.”

“He’s athletic, he’s mobile, he can extend plays a little bit,” Ohio State quarterbacks Corey Dennis stated of Devin Brown. (Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images)

Lincoln Kienholz 

Height: 6-foot-1½

Weight: 182 kilos

Class: Incoming freshman

Hometown: Pierre, South Dakota (T.F. Riggs High School)

Recruiting: Four-star prospect rated No. 189 total and No. 15 QB in 2023

In the autumn of 2021, Kienholz threw for 3,359 yards and 37 touchdowns whereas speeding for 1,165 yards and 12 touchdowns in his junior season. His recruitment picked up the next spring with scholarship presents from Pittsburgh, Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois and Kansas State, amongst others, all arriving in a six-week span from early April by way of mid-May. He took official visits to Wisconsin, Wyoming, North Dakota State and Washington earlier than committing to the Huskies final 12 months on June 29.

Five months later, Kienholz flew to Columbus for his fifth and ultimate official go to. The Buckeyes prolonged a scholarship supply the next week, in early December, and Kienholz flipped his dedication in time to seal the cope with Ohio State a couple of days earlier than Christmas amid a standout senior 12 months: 3,422 passing yards; 1,436 speeding yards; 70 mixed touchdowns.

“He’s an extremely productive guy,” Dennis stated. “And then I was able to go watch a game, watch him play when it was like one versus two, another highly ranked team in the state, and the guy’s a competitor. And he does everything. He’s extremely athletic, he competes. There was a two-minute drive — he doesn’t play [much] defense, but they’re like, ‘Hey, we know that [the opposing team is] going to throw it right here,’ and they put him back at safety and I think he had an interception in the state championship game. But I just think his competitiveness and then his production on the field, and then also him being an athlete and what he can do [was attractive to our coaching staff].”

Kienholz, who additionally performs basketball and baseball, earned All-State honors on the hardwood after averaging 19.9 factors, 7.3 rebounds and a couple of.8 assists per sport final season.

Tristan Gebbia 

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 203 kilos

Class: Graduate switch by means of Oregon State and Nebraska

Hometown: Calabasas, California (Calabasas High School)

Recruiting: Four-star prospect rated No. 200 total and No. 9 QB in 2017

Gebbia initially dedicated to Nebraska within the spring of 2016, at which level Mike Riley was getting into his second season as head coach. He enrolled the next January forward of the 2017 marketing campaign however by no means appeared in a sport for the Cornhuskers. When Riley was fired later that 12 months, Gebbia transferred to Oregon State and sat out the 2018 season as a result of the brand new switch guidelines weren’t but accredited.

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His profession with the Beavers appeared like this:

  • 2019 — Appeared in 4 video games with one begin as a redshirt sophomore. Completed 38 of 60 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
  • 2020 — Started 4 video games as a redshirt junior. Completed 80 of 129 passes for 824 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
  • 2021 — Did not play.
  • 2022 — Played in 4 video games with zero begins as a redshirt senior. Completed 10 of 11 passes for 79 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Team captain.

Gebbia, who will flip 25 in June, entered the switch portal on Jan. 3 and dedicated to Ohio State two weeks later. He knowledgeable Day and Dennis of his need to turn out to be a coach and requested if he might use his ultimate 12 months of eligibility to arrange himself for that profession area.

“This is an opportunity to almost be like a graduate assistant this year and help mentor that room,” Day stated. “With that being said, he’s played football and he’s been in rivalry games. He’s played more football than anybody in that room. So I thought it was a unique situation. I thought Corey did a good job of identifying him, and I think that’s important when you look at some of those NFL teams and those guys that are in the backup roles. Those guys are supporting the starter. That really helps with the culture, and I’m hoping he can provide that for us.

“And who is aware of? You simply by no means understand how issues shake out. I imply, look what occurred to the [San Francisco] 49ers in that sport [against the Eagles]. They didn’t actually have a lot of a quarterback to play with on the finish of that season. You by no means know what’s going to occur, so I need to make certain we’ve got 4 guys. We haven’t all the time had that as a result of it’s exhausting to seek out individuals on this function, and I feel it’s a novel function that Tristan is keen to tackle. So we’re very grateful and positively have embraced it.”

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.

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