COLUMBUS — It wasn’t that long ago – 22 years, in fact – when Ryan Day, a hotshot high school quarterback in Manchester, N.H., opted to stay home and play for the University of New Hampshire.
Named the Gatorade state player of the year, he walked in with can’t-miss credentials and likely eyes on him to live up to same. Offensive linemen, linebackers and such can sort of melt into the background their first year or two on a college football team, but a quarterback enters already bearing the ipso facto rank of lieutenant with implied expectations to be a leader.
“You set a standard, first off, about how you go about your business,” the now Ohio State head coach said of what should be a quarterback’s primary mission his first few months on campus. “Because if you’re not doing that, no one is going to follow you. You start to build a rapport with the guys you come in with.”
Transfer that to the 2020 Ohio State recruiting class. More than half of it is already on campus going through winter workouts. What’s special, and somewhat rare, about the Ohio State 2020 class is it has two blue-chip quarterbacks in Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud, and they were among the early enrollees.
“The thing that’s unique about this class is there are 14 other guys in that room, or who came in with that class, so you can build a little bit of leadership with that group,” Day said.
Day and his staff needed to replenish the depth in the quarterback room, and the double dip now gives them four scholarship players for the coming season, including returning starter and Heisman Trophy finalist Justin Fields, a junior-to-be, and senior Gunnar Hoak, a transfer last year from Kentucky.
But can two quarterbacks in the same class be one too many, at least when it comes to asserting leadership among their peers?
“I don’t think so,” Day said. “When you look back on some of the [quarterback] rooms you’ve had here, guys were all good leaders and they all went on to do great things. I’m proud of the people who have been through that room the last three, four years, the development that’s gone on.
“Those guys can be friends, too.”
The next several months including through spring drills, what Day, new quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will seek from Miller and Stroud primarily will be the desire to learn the offensive system and the aspiration to lead in the motivational sense. Day said that’s how an individual’s leadership quality can be exposed.
“There’s little ways you can do that,” Day said. “Even, let’s say we call a tempo play [in spring practice]. He can kind of be barking at the guys, ‘Come on, let’s get lined up’ … as opposed to giving them real intricate ‘You should run the route like this.’ We’re not that there yet, now. You’ve got to kind of prove you know what you’re doing before you start doing those kinds of things.
“But there are certain ways to build credibility and show your leadership. And a lot of it is setting a standard of work ethic and making sure you know what you’re doing.”
There will be competition between Miller and Stroud, no doubt. But as Day has stressed, he believes they can grow to be friends, too. He pointed to what he called a “pretty cool” recent example of that among Ohio State quarterbacks. It involved Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, and centered on the 2014 national championship season when Barrett replaced an injured Miller, then Jones replaced an injured Barrett on the way to the title.
“I wasn’t here for Cardale and Braxton, but I saw that commercial where all three of them are in the car ]together making deliveries for Chipotle during the holidays],” Day said. “And they are still close friends to this day, and they were all in the room together. …
“Everyone has their own way, and things like that happen. But the relationship can still be good in there and they can do it together.”