C.J. Stroud-Jack Miller-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller will battle into the fall. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Leadership, ‘in-depth’ playbook knowledge are QB battle X-factors

COLUMBUS — When Ryan Day says he has not settled on a starting quarterback for Ohio State, Gunnar Hoak believes him.

And Hoak’s opinion counts more than most. In fact, the Dublin native can be considered an expert on the subject, since he spent the past two seasons in that same quarterback room — 2019 as the desperately-sought graduate transfer from Kentucky who wound up as the backup to Justin Fields, and last season as the veteran safety net in the hierarchy under Fields that included then-freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller.

Now Hoak is a civilian observer – bearing a Masters degree from Ohio State — as Day, quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson ponder the just-completed spring competition featuring Stroud, Miller and freshman early enrollee Kyle McCord.

“I don’t know if I necessarily have a favorite,” Hoak said on the Tim May Podcast. “I think Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud, them being there last year, they’re going to have a better understanding obviously of what the playbook is. But obviously Kyle McCord came in [to the spring game], he came in hot. He had a great day. …

C.J. Stroud-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud had a solid spring game. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“Honestly, all three of those guys came and showed what they can do, each in their own ways. So I think it’s going to be a competition leading all the way into fall camp. … Everyone’s looking forward to see what happens, so I guess we will see what happens.”

The hot take, media wise, coming out of the spring “game”, the first extended public viewing of the three, was that the pecking order likely was Stroud, McCord and Miller. That was based in large part on the way Stroud and McCord led several touchdown drives while Miller did not.

But forget what the Ohio State coaches think. Just based on what Hoak saw and what he knows of the process, who would be his No. 1 quarterback at the moment?

“I’m not too sure,” he said. “Obviously seeing the spring game, I really did like Kyle McCord. But I’m not too sure how in-depth with the playbook he is. I know obviously they keep it simple for the spring game, so they don’t show anything off.

“So I’m anxious to see as they get more in-depth if he can end up comprehending it all. I know Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud are both ahead in that area, so I’m anxious to see if he can maybe catch up. Who knows, he may already be there.”

Kyle McCord-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State freshman Kyle McCord impressed in his first spring game. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Like Day, though, Hoak deferred.

“I don’t want to choose anyone, because I don’t think there is a guy yet, even in the coaches’ mind,” he said.

Hoak knows, after having gone through it, there is much more to the process of defining the starter. For example, when Day said headed into preseason camp in 2019 that he had not decided between Fields, who had gone through spring, and Hoak, who had transferred in after Matthew Baldwin left following spring drills, Hoak took him at his word.

What he does know for sure is Stroud, Miller and McCord are being observed on a regular basis at Ohio State. Anyone can see they have the talent to be the starter. But the intangibles play a huge role, too.

Through spring, the coaches likely were more keen on “having one of those guys step up as a leader is what’s most important,” Hoak told Lettermen Row. “Who’s going to come through summer workouts and then lead into fall camp as [the person] everyone is going to look at him as the guy who going to be the quarterback at Ohio State.

“That’s where I think the coaches are looking, more even than learning the offense this spring. It’s who’s going to come out and be the leader of the No. 1 team in the country.”
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