SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jack Miller knew all the questions would come as Ohio State looked to add a second quarterback to its recruiting class.
What the longtime commit from Arizona couldn’t figure out was why anybody thought he would answer them differently.
Miller had no shortage of confidence in his arm. He made his choice to commit to the Buckeyes for reasons that hadn’t changed. And whether C.J. Stroud joined him in the signing Class of 2020 or not, Miller was always going to have to earn a spot with the Buckeyes against other passers either on the roster already or coming behind him.
So, why would he back down?
“I don’t know where that came from,” Miller told Lettermen Row with a smile. “The whole time throughout the recruiting process, I mean, I’ll compete with anybody in the country. I think my talents are good enough to compete with anybody in the country. So, I’m excited for it. I love competition, I love being in that type of environment and it’s such a prestigious football program.
“I feel like it’s just the way I was brought up with my family and the competitive situations I’ve already been in my whole life. I just love competition, and I’m ready for it.”
The battle is officially underway now that both Miller and Stroud have arrived as early enrollees, and their careers will be inextricably entwined for the Buckeyes. Every day moving forward will include some form of comparison between the two West Coast kids, starting with how quickly they can learn the offense, who makes the most of offseason conditioning drills and how smooth the transition can be during the critical 15 spring practices starting in March.
Obviously the path to playing time was going to be challenging whether there were two quarterbacks in the class or not. But landing two of the nation’s best prospects does add intrigue for the Buckeyes — and it certainly ramps up the urgency since both Stroud and Miller have legitimate shots to become the backup behind Justin Fields, potentially setting the winner up as the heir apparent to lead the attack.
“We felt like we had to try to get more depth in that room,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “Jack and C.J. both bring different things to the table. Jack is somebody that has been committed all along. He was loyal from the get-go. I watched him throw when he was 16 years old, and I saw something in him — and he never wavered, either. And I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player. And then C.J. is somebody who came on the scene a little bit later, and I think he has a high ceiling, as well.
“I think both are really excited to come in here and go fight for playing time. I think to say that they’re going to go compete with Justin to be the starter next year is a little bit unfair. But to fight for that backup spot next year is real. They’ll both be coming in here, and you never know how that works. Before you know it, you’re in it. In order to go win championships, you have to have depth at that position.”
The Buckeyes certainly found it with two guys who embraced the opportunity to learn from Day, to spend a season developing behind Fields and to be part of a roster that’s loaded up for more runs at the College Football Playoff. And while it’s true that Ohio State had to make sure that both Miller and Stroud were fully aware of the unique situation as it recruited two players at a position where only one guy plays, it also wouldn’t have wanted players who would have run from the challenge.
From the start, both of them made it clear they had no problem betting on themselves in a competition. And no matter how it turns out, that should only make them and the Buckeyes better in the long haul.
“All I can do is control what I can control,” Stroud said. “I can’t control what [people] think about me, unless I’ve talked to them in person. But I can control what happens on the field, so I want to show everybody that I’m the best quarterback in the country.
“I definitely knew going in [to the Elite 11] that I could compete with anybody. But I needed that assurance, that stamp on it that I can play with anybody in the country. I feel like that solidified it. But when I was there, when I was going into it as a three star, I was happy with that. I was like: ‘I’m going to show people why I’m this good because the rest isn’t up to me to decide.'”
Now there’s a new mission, and it’s the same one for Miller as the head-to-head competition begins.
Ohio State still has Fields on top of the depth chart. Gunnar Hoak has now had a season to learn the system and will be right there as an experienced option as the backup as well.
But from this point on, there will always be eyes on C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller. That’s exactly how they want it.
“It’s got to happen super fast,” Miller said. “I feel like within the first week I’m just already going to be diving into everything, for sure. I’m already thinking about how everything works, how I’m going to do everything.
“Really, the sense of urgency is there, for sure.”
The battle for the early enrollees starts right now.