COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s opener at Indiana is less than two weeks away, and Buckeyes coach Ryan Day is still not ready to end one of the most notable quarterback competitions in the country.
Kyle McCord and Devin Brown have been in a battle to replace two-time Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud all offseason. Though it may be worrisome to fans that a quarterback hasn’t been announced yet, Ohio State isn’t alone. Georgia named Carson Beck its starter on Sunday, but Alabama has not named one yet, keeping the battle going between Jalen Milroe, Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson.
Even if there’s a sense of urgency to find a starting quarterback, Day isn’t going to rush it. He’ll play both against Indiana if he needs to, he said.
“I know in my heart this thing is going to work itself out,” Day said.
Here’s a few thoughts on where the competition stands:
An even battle
It sounds like a cliche — and a cop out — but it seems like Brown and McCord are truly even.
Each time reporters have seen them, I don’t think either has stood out more than the other. Day said each graded out as a “champion” in the most recent scrimmage. So when both grade out as champions, how can you make a decision on who will start?
It looked like McCord had a chance to stake his claim in the spring scrimmage, when Brown was sidelined by an injury, but that wasn’t the case. Even behind closed doors, Ohio State has seen both quarterbacks have good days and bad days. In fact, Day said there were times in camp when he thought one or the other was ready to take control, only for the other to step up.
It’s been impossible for Day to call, he said.
“One thing is for sure is that they can’t take a play off,” Day said. “That’s good. They’re going hard. The bottom line is, that finish line isn’t right now. We’re going to keep going, give them opportunity and keep evaluating them.”
In the end, Day will be the one to call the battle, but he said he surveyed the assistant coaches after Saturday’s scrimmage and the vote was split evenly between both players. That showed Day that he’s not missing anything, he added.
“For me to say one guy is this much further ahead of the other guy right now is just not accurate,” Day said. “It’s why I wanted to take a poll of the staff. They see it the way I see it.”
Day not worried about perception
Everybody has an opinion about the quarterback battle. There’s an outside perception that if they are even, then Ohio State should go with the younger player in Brown. Or maybe if they’re even, there’s another perception that Day should go with the older player in McCord who knows the offense the best.
What does Day think?
“If all things were equal, then you probably go with the guy who has been in the program longer,” Day said. “At least for the first half and you go from there. But we’ll keep evaluating. There’s a long way to go.”
What he wants is the best quarterback for Ohio State, which means moving the ball, keeping the offense on track and leading.
In a battle that is even, Day said the one who is the best leader and has control of the huddle could have the edge.
“It’s all equal. You want the guy who has it. The guy who is the leader,” Day said. “On third-and-long, or you’re backed up or after a bad play or we’re down by a score, who can rally the team or dive in the end zone on fourth down?”
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Does Day want to see both in a game?
In an ideal world, Ohio State would’ve seen enough in the scrimmages to name a starter. Those are the best ways the Buckeyes can mimic game-like scenarios.
Still, scrimmages aren’t always foolproof ways to determine position battles. Quarterbacks aren’t being hit, things are scripted more and there’s no way to simulate the pressure of a Saturday game. The idea that one mistake can cost your team isn’t something coaches can manufacture.
How a quarterback handles pressure and adversity is a key part of their job. Despite not winning a conference title or College Football Playoff game, that is one thing Stroud was great at. It didn’t matter what happened before, he walked on the field with a clear mind. He was rarely rattled.
You can’t create that at practice. If both do play against Indiana, Day will get a better sense of that. Ohio State then gets Youngstown State and WKU at home before competition ramps up with the Sept. 23 trip to Notre Dame.
When there is an even quarterback battle, how the two play in a game can be the difference.
“You don’t know until you get in a game what exactly you have,” Day said. “Practice is good, it gives us a snapshot of what you see in the game, but once you start getting tackled, you’re in the situations and live, that’s a whole other thing. We will keep trying to figure it out.”
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Where does Ohio State go from here?
Although it seems like we’re going to see both McCord and Brown against Indiana on Sept. 2, Day has stressed nothing is final.
There’s a chance one of them takes over the job this week, he said. But Ohio State has to prepare for contingencies if neither stands out above the other.
Who will start vs Indiana? How many drives would each quarterback get? What happens if the starter is hot — does the other not play? These are all things Ohio State must figure out, and Day said they’ll go there at the end of the week.
So I asked Day: If they’re even, will they both play against Indiana? His answer was about as official as you can get, for now.
“Yeah, that’s fair to say,” Day said.
Day has said on multiple occasions that both quarterbacks deserve to play. They’ve earned it by playing well in practice.
I don’t think we’re seeing a scenario in which neither is a good option and Day is having trouble picking the better of two undeserving players. If anything, it’s the opposite.
“I’ve been in situations where you don’t have a quarterback, and that’s not a good feeling,” Day said. “We’re going to have a quarterback and we might have two. If they deserve to play, they’re going to play”
(Top photo of Devin Brow: Jason Mowry / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)