Finding quarterback job No. 1 for OSU

By Jim Naveau -

COLUMBUS — Whoever is Ohio State’s starting quarterback in its opener at Minnesota on Sept. 2 will become part of a very small group of OSU quarterbacks.

Redshirt freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller, along with incoming freshman Kyle McCord, will compete for the job. But none of them has ever thrown a pass in a college football game.

The last time the starting quarterback at Ohio State came into a season opener without having thrown pass in a game was in 2014 when J.T. Barrett became an emergency starter as a redshirt freshman when Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending injury in August.

Before that, you have to go back to 1978 when Art Schlichter started the Buckeyes’ opener in his first college game.

With Justin Fields off to the NFL after two seasons, identifying his replacement will be probably the most important thing on Ryan Day’s list of things to do in the next six or seven months.

Day said it is too early to say one of the quarterbacks is ahead of the others during a Zoom conference on Friday. Stroud and Miller were 4-star recruits last year and McCord is 5-star in this year’s recruiting class.

“I don’t think either of them are further along. We’ll get a better feel for that in the spring,” Day said when asked about the two more experienced quarterbacks.

“I wish we were further along, I wish they had gotten more game reps (repetitions). But you don’t really know what you have in a quarterback until they’re playing in a game. These guys have very limited reps,” he said.

“Two years ago Justin (Fields) was out of the game in the second half for the first seven or eight games. There were a lot of snaps (for back-up quarterbacks). We didn’t have those snaps.”

“We get to see them every day in practice but what really matters is how they play in games. So we’ll have to find ways this spring between C.J., Jack and Kyle to get them in game-like situations and figure out exactly what we’ve got. You can’t go into that first game not knowing,” Day said.

Some other thoughts from Day:

MATTISON LEAVING: Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is retiring. Mattison, 71, has held that position the last two years since coming to OSU from Michigan.

Mattison has also coached at Notre Dame, Florida, Texas A&M, Navy, Northwestern, Western Michigan and with the Baltimore Ravens.

Day said it is possible Mattison’s replacement could share the defensive coordinator’s title, as he and Kerry Coombs did last season, or there could be changes in how the coaching duties are assigned, depending on who is hired.

“I think we have a really good group of guys there right now who are versatile, so we’re going to look at all options,” he said.

“Is there somebody else out there that can take Greg’s spot in the same exact role that he did? Or are we going to just move some things around and reassign some of the job descriptions? That’s all up on the table, and we’re working on that now and looking at all different options.”

WINDOW BARELY OPEN: Ohio State is still talking to recruits for the 2021 recruiting class but does not have much room to add players after signing 21 athletes in December.

“We’re pretty full now and have a healthy roster. We probably would have a spot for one more,” Day said.

TIME AWAY: After a highly stressful season, Day said it was important for the players and coaches to take some time off.

“I think it is really important for everyone to just take a deep breath and get away from each other.

We missed our families, the players missed their families. We got tired of looking at each other. Guys are still recharging,” he said.

“Once it hits Feb. 1, that’s when we start to get back to work with lifting and our offseason program with Mick (strength coach Mickey Marotti). But COVID is not going away, it’s not like all of a sudden we can get back to normal. The question is how quickly can we get back to normal.”

Day said he and his wife and children stayed in Florida for a few days after the national championship game against Alabama, then visited relatives in New Hampshire.

“It was good to get away and recharge a little bit. A little bit in Florida, a little bit in New Hampshire and right back to work,” he said.

TRANSFER TALK: The last three years Ohio State has worked the transfer portal as well as anyone by adding Fields, running back Trey Sermon and offensive lineman Jonah Jackson.

Could it strike gold again? The need might not be as great as it was in those situations, but Day didn’t totally slam the door on adding someone.

“Anytime you bring someone in, whether it’s a coach or a player, they have to fit our culture. We’re pretty healthy at most positions. We feel like we have a lot of guys right now who can play for us. I think there are a lot of good, young players in the program,” he said.

“But, that being said, we’re always looking to see if we can upgrade in different areas if need be. It’s not like there is an area where it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, we have to get somebody there.’ But we’re always looking.”

By Jim Naveau