Ohio State Position-by-Position 2022 Preview: Quarterbacks
The turn of the calendar to July means college football season is just around the corner.
June recruiting camps have wrapped up and one month remains before preseason practices get rolling in full force. The Buckeyes finished hosting high school recruits after another slate of spring practices that saw the spring game culminate in their last competition April 17.
Nearly the entire defensive coaching staff is new save for defensive line and associate head coach Larry Johnson ahead of the 2022 season. Former Oklahoma State assistant and new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will lead the forthcoming changes to the Buckeyes’ defense that allowed 372.9 yards and 22.8 points per game in the Big Ten, both sixth-worst marks in the conference.
Head coach Ryan Day will be tasked with retooling an offense potent and capable after finishing with the most total offense in the NCAA with 561.5 yards per game. Assistant coaches Tony Alford and Brian Hartline saw promotions to run game and passing game coordinators, respectively, in addition to new offensive line coach Justin Frye joining the staff from UCLA.
Ohio State earned its second Rose Bowl victory in four seasons after defeating No. 11 Utah 48-45 Jan. 1. The Buckeyes finished 11-2 and saw their first conference and home losses under Day a season ago.
First up in the Position Previews series in advance of the Buckeyes’ 2022 season is the quarterbacks room, headlined by a Heisman Trophy finalist and incoming four-star freshman.
A glance at Ohio State’s quarterback room
Here are the quarterbacks currently listed on Ohio State’s 2022 roster:
Third-year C.J. Stroud
Sophomore Kyle McCord
Freshman Devin Brown
Contrary to last season, Ohio State has a better idea who it’ll trot out onto the new turf at Ohio Stadium against Notre Dame Sept. 3.
While it’s no surprise Stroud will return as starter, what remains to be seen is his performance as a second-year starter. Gone away are the nerves and trepidation of not having thrown a college pass — Stroud is a Heisman Trophy contender.
McCord will enter his second year in the program, embracing his role as the top backup option for Day and the Buckeyes to look toward. In five games during his debut season, McCord threw 416 yards and two touchdowns across 25 completions and two interceptions.
Where there is more curiosity is around Brown, a true freshman who flipped from USC in November to Ohio State in December. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Brown played under former Buckeye quarterback Joe Germaine for the first three seasons of his career at Queen Creek High School in Arizona.
Brown then moved to Draper, Utah, and finished at the prep level by competing in the state title game with Corner Canyon High School. He’s flashed his skill set so far, performing at the Elite 11 finals in 2021 and enrolling early in January, and will be interesting to see develop now under Day.
Who is the returning starter?
Stroud is the incumbent, but don’t forget McCord has one start to his name.
McCord threw 319 yards and two touchdowns against Akron Sept. 25, 2021, while the Buckeyes defeated the Zips 59-7. He didn’t hit the ground running immediately against the Zips, but came around to finish 13-for-18 and had one interception.
The former four-star recruit entered late in games against Rutgers and Maryland before going 5-for-6 for 51 yards at Indiana and completing four passes against then-No. 7 Michigan State. McCord’s second interception of the season also came against the Spartans, but he finished the season with an overall completion percentage of 65.6.
McCord is solidified as Ohio State’s go-to backup quarterback, and Brown will learn under him as he embraces his first season at the college level. Both should provide formidable depth behind Stroud, who will look to build on his first season as a starter in which he threw for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns — including five games of at least five passing scores — and a 71.9 completion percentage.
Three keys to remember
Big challenges await whoever is under center next season
The lights won’t be any brighter than when they come on for kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3.
Ohio State will be in for an immediate test against Notre Dame to begin the 2022 season. The Fighting Irish went 11-2 last season, and their defense held opponents to 359.5 yards and 19.7 points per game.
Nationally, Notre Dame’s defense ranked No. 43 in total defense a season ago. Oddly enough, the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish both had equivalent turnover margins of nine.
While safety Kyle Hamilton moved onto the NFL, graduate safety DJ Brown will return to Notre Dame’s secondary and tied his teammate for the team lead with three interceptions.
Ohio State will also have a three-game stretch at Michigan State, home against Iowa and back on the road at Penn State Oct. 8-29 that’s sure to be no easy challenge. The Buckeyes will also host Wisconsin Sept. 24 in their first Big Ten game of the season, and the Badgers had the best passing defense in the conference by limiting opponents to 174.3 yards through the air last season.
Then, the Buckeyes will have their eye on revenge against Michigan Nov. 26.
Stroud still threw for 394 yards and two touchdowns against the Wolverines last season, but issues stopping the run game overshadowed much of Ohio State’s production in its rivalry loss. Pressure will be on to not only get a little bit back from their rivals, but the Buckeyes will also defend their home field against Michigan for the first time since 2018.
The run game could have a hand in production
Ohio State also has an All-American in the backfield, too.
Sophomore TreVeyon Henderson rewrote record books during his first campaign with the Buckeyes, including the freshman touchdown benchmark and most yards in a game by a freshman.
Henderson exceeded 21 carries in just three games last season and didn’t have more than 17 in any of his last four outings. Building on a season in which he earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors, Henderson could vie for more carries that takes away the passing game and attempts from Stroud and Ohio State’s gunslingers.
Junior Miyan Williams could also command more shares of the football, jumping from 10 carries to 71 between his first and second seasons, which saw him run for 508 yards and three scores.
Sophomore Evan Pryor garnered a number of carries during the spring game in April, and incoming four-star ball-carrier Dallan Hayden will look to slot into the depth chart as well.
Stroud has only started one season
It’s expected at Ohio State to demand excellence and compete for championships, but it’s important to remember keeping both feet on the ground.
Ohio State’s last two quarterbacks present an intriguing scenario to consider when entering their second year with the Buckeyes.
Justin Fields elevated his Heisman-finalist debut season with the Buckeyes in 2019 to a College Football Playoff National Championship appearance in 2020. While he had six fewer games in his second season at Ohio State, Fields still threw for a higher completion percentage and averaged more passing yards per game than he did during his first.
In his only season as the starter, Dwayne Haskins also reached the status of a Heisman finalist while guiding Ohio State to 13 wins and a Rose Bowl victory.
Stroud is Day’s first quarterback recruited and developed by him into a starter as a head coach, and next season will reveal how the duo can capitalize on a second season together. Stroud also dealt with a shoulder injury that nagged him at the start of the season, later resting one week before picking up and turning into the potent gunslinger that led to his decorated postseason.
Two questions for the room
How will Stroud perform in his second season as starter?
It remains to be seen if Stroud can pick up where he left off in the Rose Bowl and in the second half of last season. But with familiar weapons like junior wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and a returning center in redshirt sophomore Luke Wypler, Stroud could be set up for more success.
He’ll also have Henderson and Williams beside him as reliable running backs to hand the ball off and work pass protection.
Sophomore wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka flashed what they can do with more reps during the Rose Bowl, catching 117 yards on nine catches while the former scored three touchdowns.
Where Stroud will have some unfamiliarity is at wide receiver and on the left side of the offensive line, where junior Paris Johnson Jr. will start at left tackle and sophomore Donovan Jackson will play left guard. Graduate Matthew Jones will likely earn more reps at right guard, reconfiguring the Buckeyes’ front line that lost two starters from last season.
Tight end will also be another position of uncertainty as Jeremy Ruckert departed for the NFL, meaning Stroud will need to connect with the likes of Mitch Rossi, Gee Scott Jr., Joe Royer and perhaps Bennett Christian next season.
Ohio State returns some of its production from last season, and it will be key to see how Stroud can play with new faces at important places.
What will Brown’s development look like in his first season?
Stroud saw some game time during his true freshman season in 2020, appearing in two games against Rutgers and at Michigan State. McCord made one start and played in five games during his Ohio State debut, so it’s likely Brown will introduce himself to the Buckeyes at some point.
Day is lauded for the way he works with quarterbacks. His background as a college quarterback at New Hampshire and decade-plus of coaching experience give him a wealth of experience to lean on, and he’s not the only Buckeye mind Brown will have worked with.
During his first three seasons of high school, Brown played for Germaine before his head coach took an opening elsewhere. It was there at Queen Creek High School that Brown played most of his career that nearly reached 8,000 passing yards and 85 touchdowns over 31 total high school games.
Now, Brown will develop behind a Heisman finalist and quarterbacks coach that have both displayed their skills at the highest level.
Ohio State played four games before McCord and Stroud made their Buckeye debuts. Time will tell until Brown does, also.
One prediction for the 2022 season
Stroud returns to the Heisman presentation — and brings home hardware
He finished fourth in the voting for most outstanding football player in New York last season, and has a viable case to remain a contender this year.
Stroud finished second among Power 5 quarterbacks last season in passing yards per game with an average of 369.58, behind Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong and Western Kentucky’s nation-leader Bailey Zappe.
The Buckeyes’ signal-caller also claimed the Big Ten’s Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year and Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year awards en route to a Third Team All-American selection by the Associated Press.
Stroud came a long way from the early critics and his injured throwing shoulder in September 2021.
After throwing interceptions in each of the first three games with a 62.4 completion percentage, Stroud rested against Akron and returned at Rutgers on a different level. Stroud threw 14 touchdowns in his next three games and eclipsed 300 yards in eight of his next nine.
Stroud capped his record-breaking, historic campaign by becoming the first 500-yard passer in Ohio State history after throwing for 573 yards and six touchdowns against the Utes, coming full-circle during a season in which he experienced the highest of highs and some of the lowest of lows.
His performance in the Rose Bowl left many in wonder of what to expect in 2022.