No. 3 Ohio State’s yet-to-be-named starting quarterback could hardly be in a better position to become a college football star.
Either Kyle McCord or Devin Brown will get the full focus of quarterback whisperer Ryan Day and be surrounded by a flashy array of offensive weapons.
The new QB will be throwing to perhaps the best receiving corps in college football — All-American Marvin Harrison Jr. is already projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick — and have two seasoned and finally healthy running backs, TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams.
The starter will be expected to win every regular-season game, lead the Buckeyes over Michigan for the first time in three years, return the team to the College Football Playoff and win the national championship for the first time since the 2014 season.
No pressure. Just ask C.J. Stroud, who broke Buckeyes records in his two seasons as a starter but departed without beating Michigan — a major sin in Columbus.
Third-year player McCord and Brown, who is entering his second year, are both right-handed pro-style passers of similar size — 6-foot-3 and around 215.
They have split reps in camp so far. Day, the fifth-year Buckeyes coach, said the competition was “too close to call.”
“The only thing (where) Kyle has an edge right now, just in terms of all of it, is that he’s been here for another year,” Day said, noting Brown had to sit out of the spring game because of a fractured pinkie finger on his throwing hand.
In two seasons backing up Stroud, McCord completed 58 passes for 606 yards and three touchdowns. Brown got limited time in mop-up duty and didn’t attempt a pass last season.
“Even though it didn’t happen exactly right away (at Ohio State) for me, I knew that it’s a marathon,” McCord said. “And that if I trusted the process and kept getting better, I could put myself in a good position.”
The Buckeyes finished 11-2 last year, losing to hated rival Michigan in the final regular-season game. They backed into a playoff spot, losing to eventual national champion Georgia in a wild one, 42-41.
“Little things,” Harrison said when asked what went awry in those final games. “You look at the Georgia game, there were a couple plays here and there that were inches away that would have told the story of that game. Even in the (Michigan) game … there were big plays that were inches away — making a tackle here, getting a catch here, getting a first down there. So I think it was the little things. We just have to bring them all together.”
MARV AND CO.
Harrison — who played on three state championship teams with McCord at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia — caught 77 passes for 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2022. Emeka Egbuka also finished in the top 10 in the country with 74 catches, 1,151 yards and 10 TDs. Both are entering their third and likely last seasons in Columbus before going pro. Fourth-year wideout Julian Fleming and third-year tight end Cade Stover also return. The two combined for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022.
JOBS ARE OPEN
Ohio State lost huge starting tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones, along with starting center Luke Wypler, to the NFL draft. That left guards Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones as the only returning starters on the O-line.
The Buckeyes defense was ranked among the nation’s top 20 last season under first-year coordinator Jim Knowles but still allowed 45 and 42 points to Michigan and Georgia, respectively, in the final two games. The returning veterans have seen a lot. Safeties Josh Proctor and Lathan Ransom, linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers, and cornerback Denzel Burke are among the returning starters.
The Buckeyes open at Indiana on Sept. 2. Key games include at No. 13 Notre Dame on Sept. 23, No. 7 Penn State at home on Oct. 23, and at No. 2 Michigan Nov. 25.