The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the freshmen quarterbacks? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Who looks better early on? CJ or Jack as backup and heir apparent
— Chuck Lilja (@ChuckLilja) March 9, 2020
If Ohio State had to name a backup quarterback to go into a game right now, Gunnar Hoak would be the next in line.
But the Buckeyes don’t play real games in spring. And based on just the really early returns, it’s possible that the pecking order could change by the time the program takes the field in the fall.
There’s no sense getting carried away with just one practice, of course. The open workout last week was a tiny sample size, the full pads weren’t on and the stakes don’t even remotely compare to what C.J. Stroud or Jack Miller will face the first time they are taking snaps in the Horseshoe. So, anything that happened last Monday obviously has to be taken with a heaping handful of salt.
But in comparing his opening practice to some others before him, Stroud certainly looked the part for the Buckeyes and would be the knee-jerk pick to potentially develop into the heir apparent for the program. Again, that’s nothing against Miller, who showed off some mobility and can definitely deliver the football with some zip. But Stroud’s package of size and athleticism combined with a few big-time throws caught the eye at least on Day One, and it just felt like a more confident performance for a debut practice than any other passers had in recent memory.
It’s dangerous to put too much stock in that, obviously, because he also missed some throws, he’s only scratching the surface of the playbook and a couple times the confusion was clear. Those hiccups are expected, though, which is what made the number of productive snaps stand out even more for Stroud.
That doesn’t mean he’s going to leapfrog Hoak by the end of spring. It also doesn’t mean Miller can’t quickly catch back up as both early enrollees go through growing pains and work to zip through the learning curve. There’s a long way to go before any sort of decision has to be made — and the Buckeyes also aren’t done trying to squeeze more out of Justin Fields.
“We were rolling, both of those guys and Gunnar, they were kind of rolling reps with the twos,” Day said. “And as time goes on they’ll all start to roll reps with the ones as well. We feel Justin has enough of his reps, but he still has some things to work on and improve on. But we’ll let those guys compete for that backup role.
“Who knows what happens at the end of spring? My guess is those guys will just keep working at it and the competition will go into the preseason. And there’s just a lot of growth to be had there. It’s hard when Gunnar came in as a transfer and those other guys are coming from high school. There’s a lot of football to be learned, and that’s the idea of spring practice.”
The reps in March and April are a big deal for both C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller as they fight for the backup job right away with an eye on becoming the next starter for Ohio State. And fair or not, those guys are always going to be under intense scrutiny and compared to each other for their entire careers — starting with the first workout.
Stroud may have had the flashier start. But the battle with Miller is only just beginning.
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