Ohio State QB battle ends: Why Ryan Day anointing Kyle McCord is right choice at right time

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s eight-month quarterback battle is officially over.

After not naming a starter during the offseason and not permanently anointing one early in the season, Ryan Day has seen enough to give the reins of the offense to Kyle McCord. It’s hardly a surprise, given that McCord started and played the overwhelming majority of meaningful snaps in the first two games over Devin Brown. But speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Day laughed when the first question wasn’t about the quarterback and then named McCord the starter.

“We still plan on playing Devin, but we feel that Kyle has stepped up and deserves to be the starter, so we wanted to go ahead and make that distinction,” Day said.

This wasn’t a decision Day took lightly. From the moment C.J. Stroud walked off the field for the final time at the Peach Bowl, the question about the future of Ohio State’s QB job has been one of the biggest storylines in the country. After all, few position groups have performed at a higher level in recent years than Buckeyes quarterbacks.

Being a quarterback at Ohio State comes with pressure and a standard that in some ways is hard to meet. The last three starters have all been Heisman Trophy finalists. Stroud reached New York twice, in fact.

Though it’s too early to attach that type of hype to McCord, it’s become the expectation for an Ohio State quarterback, fair or not.

“The standard is very high here. The guys who have come before have done an unbelievable job,” Day said during preseason camp. “That is the expectation. We should be playing for a national championship, we should be Heisman Trophy finalists and first-round draft picks. That’s been the standard set and we have to keep building on that.”

QB Comp/Att (%) Yds TD INT Snaps

Kyle McCord

34/53 (64.2)





Devin Brown

8/16 (50)





If building on that success is the goal, then McCord is the right guy to lead this team. And Day made the call at the right time.

“It’s the overall consistency I think he’s playing with,” Day said. “He kept the offense going, he came out of the gates playing efficient football and that’s what we’ll look for going forward.”

After Saturday’s win against Youngstown State, McCord was asked if he thought he won the starting job. He gave the politically correct answer, saying that the decision is up to Day and he just wants to make the most out of his opportunities on the field.

Day was asked the same question and said that he would have to watch the film. In reality, it was over, even if Day didn’t want to say it or McCord didn’t want to come across as cocky. Anybody who watched the first two games knew McCord had emerged as the guy.

McCord played 61 of 67 snaps in the opener at Indiana. In the Youngstown State game, he was the quarterback for five of the six first-half drives. And although Brown played 34 snaps to McCord’s 28 snaps, 20 of those snaps for Brown came in the fourth quarter.


What I learned rewatching Ohio State vs. Youngstown State: Final Buckeyes thoughts

When he was on the field, McCord largely looked the part. He completed 14-of-20 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns, and although it was against an FCS school, not a Big Ten opponent like Indiana, there was growth.

Against the Hoosiers, McCord struggled to look deep consistently. He was taking everything in front of him and missed players like Marvin Harrison Jr. over the top a few times. Per PFF, his average depth of target in that game was 9.5 yards, which isn’t bad considering Stroud’s average was 10.7. But he stretched the field more vs. the Penguins, finishing with an average depth of target of 11.1.

An Ohio State quarterback throwing all over Youngstown State is expected, but he still showed improvement. That improvement helps confidence.

“It’s building,” Day said. “Regardless of the opponent, when you play at Ohio Stadium and get your second start, see how people react, I thought he was more poised in this one than the first one.”

In deciding the starting quarterback, talent is obviously part of it and that’s not a question with McCord. Even when he struggled against Indiana, you could see his elite arm talent. But Day said at the beginning of the battle that he wanted to see a special trait stand out. For McCord, Day sees two: his consistency and his accuracy.

Day has also repeatedly said that the quarterback doesn’t have to be a superhero. He has to make routine plays routinely, and that’s what McCord did against Youngstown State. The third-year quarterback missed a few throws, as anyone will, but more often than not he was on point. That was the case in the second half against Indiana too.



Kyle McCord’s ‘mixed bag’ debut in win at Indiana: Ohio State film study

Between Saturday and the second half of the Indiana game, when he seemed to settle down, McCord completed 24-of-36 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns for a 67 percent completion rate.

“He’s missed a couple throws, but we see accuracy in him that has a chance to be special,” Day said.

That’s enough, early in his career, to know that he’s improving as he gains more experience. It was time to name him the starter and move on.

Ohio State is playing the long game, as Day mentioned on Saturday. The Buckeyes are trying to win national championships, not just a few games, so incremental progress is important. Still, there’s a sense of urgency with a Sept. 23 top-10 matchup at Notre Dame inching closer.

Naming McCord the starter now gives him a week of prep for Western Kentucky as the clear No. 1 before Notre Dame week is important.

The talk about the quarterback battle is over. Now, it’s time for McCord to put everything together on the field. Day isn’t the type to bench someone for a few bad plays, either, so McCord shouldn’t be looking over his shoulder, scared that his spot will be taken by Brown if he makes a mistake.

It’s his team. And while Ohio State still has questions to answer offensively, this was the right decision at the right time.

(Photo: Jason Mowry / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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