Just 12 days away from its first game of the season, Ohio State hasn't picked a starting quarterback between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown.
The departure of C.J. Stroud, who started under center for the past two years before being picked second overall by the Houston Texans, has left a rare void at the position. Head coach Ryan Day seeks to fill that void via an open-position competition between McCord and Brown.
Both players saw some action a year ago, although McCord appeared in seven games compared to two for Brown. Because of that differential, McCord seen by some as having a bit of an edge in this battle. McCord threw 16 passes last year and completed seven for 190 yards, with one touchdown. Brown didn't throw a pass and only logged one rushing attempt. Still, Day considers the competition to be neck and neck; the staff is reportedly split between the two, and while there has appeared to be separation between the competitors at times, the other has stepped up and evened things right back up.
As prospects, the two had very similar profiles — albeit in different classes, as McCord is a junior and Brown is a redshirt freshman. Both passers were four-star recruits, ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in their class and the top 50 overall players, according to 247Sports. They also have very similar physical profiles, as they're only separated by a half-inch of height and 19 pounds (McCord is a tad bigger by both measures at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds). As a pro comparison, 247Sports' high school scouts picked Matthew Stafford for McCord and Sam Darnold for Brown, so there's clearly a lot of respect for the arm talent that both of these guys possess, and a bit of similarity between their play styles.
The Buckeyes are currently third in the AP poll and fourth in the coaches poll, receiving a first-place vote in each. They are perennial contenders to win conference and national titles, and it's fairly irregular to see them enter the season with this much of a question mark at the position. Ten of the last 11 winners of the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year award have been Buckeyes, a list including Heisman candidates and first-round picks Stroud and Justin Fields.
— Ohio State Buckeyes ? (@OhioStAthletics) August 14, 2023
Unlike some major programs, Ohio State actually starts its season on the road and in conference play, with a game at Indiana. The Hoosiers aren't expected to be a particularly good Power 5 team, but that's still not an ideal way to ease in a new starter. Day has also indicated that if there's no clear resolution by opening day, he's not against carrying the competition into the regular season — so the game against Indiana could feature both of these guys getting meaningful snaps.
A dual-quarterback system can create confusion and shake the confidence of one or both of the passers, but it's been used to great effect in certain instances. It can bring out the best in true competitors, as it did for Tom Brady himself at Michigan back in the late '90s. Alabama showed us the value of having a talented backup when Tua Tagovailoa stepped in at halftime of the national championship game in relief of Jalen Hurts and won a ring for the Crimson Tide; a year later, when Tagovailoa got hurt in the SEC title game, Hurts returned the favor. Now, both are NFL stars, an outcome the Buckeyes would love to see for their two potential signal-callers.
And, of course, who could forget none other than Ohio State back in 2014, the Buckeyes' last national championship season? They lost incumbent starter Braxton Miller to a season-ending injury in the preseason, then backup J.T. Barrett got them through the regular season before getting hurt himself. Then previous third-stringer Dwayne Haskins led the Buckeyes to wins in the Big Ten championship, Sugar Bowl and, finally, the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game.
This program has already turned a wide-open QB situation into one of the most memorable title runs of all time. Let's see what they can do this year.
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