COLUMBUS – If the progress Kyle McCord made toward winning the starting quarterback job during Ohio State’s spring football game on Saturday was charted on an imaginary football field, he began the game at the 50-yard line and finished it three or four yards closer to his goal.
It was an OK day for the player many people think is the favorite to follow C.J. Stroud as OSU’s starter. But it also wasn’t a decisive day.
McCord had the big stage of the spring game all to himself after his No. 1 competitor, Devin Brown, suffered an injury to a finger on his throwing hand in practice last week.
McCord was 18 of 34 for 184 yards and one touchdown, playing behind an offensive line that is still very much a work in progress, without No. 1 pass catcher Marvin Harrison Jr. for all but two possessions, and without veteran receivers Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming and Xavier Johnson all day.
The critics didn’t have their knives out after McCord’s performance but it didn’t evoke standing ovations, either.
The high point of McCord’s day was a 37-yard touchdown throw to freshman receiver Carnell Tate, which combined his nearly perfect throw, a great pattern by Tate and some of the best blocking of the day by the offensive line.
“I think what you saw in the game was similar to what you’ve seen in practice – some good things, some things that you’d like to see a little bit better. But he’s growing,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said about McCord.
“You saw there were some sparks. I thought the throw to Carnell was an excellent one. But there’s stuff that he wants to improve on. So we’ll get on the film and figure out what that was,” Day said.
The spring game matched OSU’s offense against its defense and the defense was the winner, 40-31, though it led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes’ defense last season, while improved from the 2021 season, was still their weak link, most notably when it gave up 45 points to Michigan and 42 points against Georgia in a College Football Playoff semifinal in their only losses.
So, viewed from the perspective of an improved defense, the fact OSU’s offense struggled at times could be viewed as almost a good thing.
“We’ve seen that for almost 15 (spring) practices, what you saw today. So that was really good,” Day said.
“I think the challenge will be increased in the preseason, when we’re at full strength (on offense). But you can just see the discernment. Everything’s faster. They’re moving faster, they’re seeing it. Being year two in the system (of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles), you’re starting to see the secondary move faster, make more plays and be more decisive,” he said.
Safety Sonny Styles and linebacker C.J. Hicks each had two pass break-ups and one of those by Hicks was nearly an interception. Five defensive linemen –Caden Curry, Ty Hamilton, Kenyatta Jackson, Hero Kanu and Tyleik Williams – had sacks.
OSU will have first-year starters at both offensive tackle positions and at center. The offensive line’s performance on Saturday drew a one-word description from Day: “inconsistent.”
“There were some good things but we need more consistency,” he said.
Chip Trayanum led the rushing game with 110 yards on 8 carries and scored on a 65-yard touchdown run.
Trayanum, who began his college career as a running back at Arizona State, played linebacker early last season before returning to offense when injuries caused a shortage of healthy running backs at OSU. It appears he will stay on offense this season.
“He’s got some high end speed, some top end speed,” Day said. “Chip has changed his body. He’s gotten stronger. He’s a load in there.”
Trayanum’s touchdown run got some competition for most popular rushing play of the day late in the third quarter when Day sent two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin into the game and he
jogged 25 yards for a touchdown without being touched by a defensive player.