COLUMBUS — C.J. Stroud officially won the race to become Ohio State’s starting quarterback on Saturday when coach Ryan Day declared him the winner of the competition for that job.
Stroud, a redshirt freshman, earned the starting job in the Buckeyes’ opener at Minnesota on Sept. 2 over Jack Miller, also a redshirt freshman, and incoming freshman Kyle McCord.
Stroud and Miller were ranked as 4-star recruits and McCord is a 5-star recruit. Quinn Ewers, also a 5-star recruit, arrived at OSU last week but got there too late to be an immediate contender to become the starting quarterback.
“In his body of work between the spring and also through the preseason he separated himself with his decision making, his leadership skills and his accuracy,” Day said about Stroud.
“I’m excited about what we’ve seen, for sure. He’s shown us all the things we need to see. We’re ready to go play Minnesota with him at quarterback. I think it was the right decision for sure,” he said.
Until the summer before his senior year at Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High School, Stroud was barely on the radar of most major college football programs and wasn’t ranked among the top 500 prospects in his class.
But a strong showing at the Elite 11 Quarterbacks Camp changed that. His performance at the Elite 11 helped make him the No. 42 prospect overall in the 2020 recruiting class and the No. 2 pro-style quarterback.
He had offers from USC, Oregon, Georgia, Michigan and several other Power Five conference schools in addition to Ohio State.
Stroud passed for 6,221 yards and 66 touchdowns and completed 63 percent of his passes in two years as a starter at Rancho Cucamonga.
Like Miller, McCord and Ewers, he has not thrown a pass in a college football game. He was on the field for eight snaps last season.
One of those was against Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal last season after Justin Fields had to leave the game for one play after taking a big hit. That was one of the first indications that Stroud might be next in line if Fields did what everyone expected and declared he would enter the 2021 NFL draft.
Stroud did have one big play last season but it was a running play. It was a 48-yard touchdown run against Michigan State.
“He has a strong arm but he also has anticipation. He has kind of surprised us with his athleticism. He moves well, he can get out of the pocket and run, he extends plays. “He has strong leadership skills. He’s not afraid to speak up and that’s good,” Day said.
Stroud will be leading an offense that has three returning starters on the offensive line, two of the best receivers in college football, a tight end who is among the best in the country at his position and a deep group of running backs.
“He can feel good knowing he has a good team around him. He doesn’t have to play extraordinary,” Day said. “I think he knows it is an opportunity. It’s not an accomplishment, it’s an opportunity. Now we’ve got to put it on the field.”
Day also seemed to indicate that if Stroud does not live up to expectations another quarterback could get an opportunity to play.
“There is going to be one quarterback starting against Minnesota. That is all that is guaranteed,” Day said.