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AP

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day names quarterback C.J. Stroud starter

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Ryan Day has named C.J. Stroud the Buckeyes' starting quarterback for the season-opener against Minnesota on Sept. 2.

On Monday, Day said that Stroud, a redshirt freshman from California, had emerged as the leader in the competition with fellow redshirt freshman Jack Miller and true freshman Kyle McCord. On Friday, Stroud secured the job in a long scrimmage at Ohio Stadium that coaches likened to a preseason game.

"The whole goal was, 'Who's game-ready? Who's ready to go play in this game?' " Day said. "And I thought we had a bunch of guys who are getting ready — not everybody. But this was kind of that line of demarcation of where everybody's at. C.J. graded out a champion and played really well in that game, and I think he's solidified his spot.

"I'm excited about what I've seen in camp. There's been a lot of flashes of really good quarterback play."

With the opener approaching, coaches wanted to settle on a starter so that game preparation could begin in earnest. Day said Stroud started to get the majority of first-team reps earlier this week.

"With the body of work between the spring and through preseason, he separated himself with his decision-making, his leadership skills, his accuracy. Now we've got to prepare to go play a game," he said. "But I'm proud of him, happy for him."

Day said Stroud took the news in stride.

"He was excited, for sure, and fired up," he said. "But he's not an overly emotional guy in those type of situations. I think he knows that this is just an opportunity. It's not an accomplishment, and I think he looked at it like that."

Stroud has been considered the front-runner to succeed Justin Fields since Fields decided to enter the NFL draft. The Chicago Bears took him with the 11th overall pick.

The 6-3, 218-pound Stroud appeared in three games last year. Like Miller, Stroud didn't attempt a pass, though he had a 48-yard touchdown run late in a rout of Michigan State.

Day told Stroud that he'll have to prove his toughness during games. Quarterbacks are protected from the bruising that players at other positions must endure in training camp.

"I think he had a great role model in Justin last year, being able to take shots and work through injuries along the way," Day said. "That's going to be a big part of what this season presents for him. But I'm excited about what we've seen for sure. He's shown us all the things that we need to see to be ready to go play Minnesota on the 2nd with him at quarterback."

A big part of that is leadership.

"I've seen several times when the group had to get called up, he jumped right up in front," Day said, "so I think he has strong leadership skills. And I think as the starting quarterback is solidified, he'll now take the extra step. But he's not afraid to speak up, and that's good."

Saturday's announcement capped Stroud's rapid rise since he was an overlooked prospect at Rancho Cucamonga High School. He didn't start until his junior year, and his recruitment took off after he won Most Valuable Player honors at the Elite 11 camp.

Ohio State entered the picture late, recruiting Stroud after Miller had already committed. Though he was favored to win the job as training camp opened, Stroud said he would keep his underdog mentality.

"Even if things go the way I think they will for me this year, I'll still have that chip on my shoulder just because I know where I come from and know everything that I've been through," Stroud said. "I definitely will still keep that mindset and that chip on my shoulder, but not a negative chip — just a chip of 'I want it more than anyone else.' That's kind of my mindset."

Day did not name a top backup. He said he has preached to them he expects to need them during the season.

"They've been great teammates, and they know the focus has to be on development," Day said. "We knew that there was going to be one quarterback who started against Minnesota, and that's the only thing that's guaranteed.

"They're all here to continue to work and develop and grow, and their attitudes have been excellent."

With five-star freshman Quinn Ewers just arriving, it's highly unlikely that all four quarterbacks will return in 2022. Day said Ewers has missed a couple of practices because of an injury and is expected back late this week.

"When we get to January, we'll see what the year brings," Day said of the quarterback situation. "We'll come up for air and reassess, and that's all fair. I totally get it. But right now I know that they're committed, and they want to be here."

 

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