COLUMBUS — The competition to become Ohio State’s starting quarterback was deservedly the center of attention at the Buckeyes’ spring football game on Saturday.
No surprise there. And in an equally unsurprising situation, head coach Ryan Day said the starter is a long way from being decided, just as he has said pretty much since the day Justin Fields declared he was entering the NFL draft.
All three of the quarterbacks, 5-star redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud, 5-star incoming freshman Kyle McCord and 4-star redshirt freshman Jack Miller did some good things.
If most of the crowd of around 19,000 which watched the spring game at Ohio Stadium had a vote Stroud probably would have been their choice after he completed 16 of 22 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns and appeared to embrace his audition in front of an audience with gusto.
McCord was 12 of 17 for 184 yards and also threw two touchdown passes. Miller completed 17 of his 30 passes for 128 yards and threw the only interception of the day. Stroud’s TD passes went to Chris Olave and freshman Marvin Harrison. Jaxon Smith-Njigba and back-up tight end Joe Royer caught McCord’s touchdown throws.
But this isn’t American Idol or the Major League Baseball All-Star Game where fans can send in their votes. The only vote that counts belongs to Day. And his message after the spring game was something along the lines of “Wait. Hold your horses. Stop sign ahead.”
“It was very similar to what has been there all spring — some good, some not so good,” Day said about the three quarterbacks.
“They’ve learned a lot but now the race is on over the next few months to figure out who can make the next stride so they’re further along. Spring has been good, there has been a lot of progress made across the board but there is still a long way to go before we play Minnesota (in the season opener Sept. 2).
“We take the entire 15 spring practices and evaluate all those things. There’s a body of work that needs to be built from spring practice up to the first game,” he said.
Meanwhile, some other highly rated freshmen showed why the recruiting analysts made them 5-star and 4-star players.
Emeka Egbuka caught seven passes for 123 yards. Harrison also had seven catches and running back TreVeyon Henderson rushed for 26 yards on six carries and caught five passes. Jayden Ballard caught two passes.
But probably the most college football ready performance by a freshman came from defensive end Jack Sawyer, who had three sacks.
“He’s off to a great start, for sure. He’s getting more reps (repetitions) and working his way up the depth chart. I think overall our defensive line was solid. We’ve got some good depth there,” Day said.
“Jack came in with a lot of confidence, and he’s made a lot of plays. What you saw today was pretty much most every practice out there. If he can keep getting stronger and keep building, then hopefully he’s going to have an impact and be able to participate early in the season.
“Marvin, Emeka and Brayden have all shown they have the ability to play this season. They are nowhere where they need to be. They have a long way to go over the next couple months but there’s a bright future there,” he said.
Several starters made token appearances or did not play and others had sat out all of spring practice because of injuries.
“The No. 1 goal is to come out of this thing healthy. I thought we did that for the most part. I held my breath on a couple of plays,” Day said.
After OSU played its three home games last season in front of crowds of 1,344 fans, 1,275 fans and 635 fans, Day was glad to see many more seats occupied on Saturday.
“It felt almost normal out there today. We’re used to 85,000 for the spring game but even 20,000 was nice. I’m just hoping that thing is full when we come back here against Oregon in not too long (for a Sept. 11 game),” he said.
Team Buckeyes defeated Team Brutus by a score of 27-14.