Ohio State named C.J. Stroud its starting quarterback for the Week 1 game against Minnesota. Coach Ryan Day made the announcement Saturday, two weeks before the Buckeyes take on the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis on Sept. 4. Stroud, a redshirt freshman, has long been considered the frontrunner to succeed Justin Fields, even though Day has largely played coy in talking about one of the most intriguing quarterback battles of the offseason.
A former five-star recruit in 2020 per 247Sports, Stroud redshirted in 2020 and entered the 2021 offseason in a heated three-way battle alongside Kyle McCord — another five-star in the 2021 class — and fellow redshirt freshman Jack Miller. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound signal-caller exited spring as the likely QB1 after a two-touchdown performance in the spring game, but the battle continued into preseason camp.
This past week, however, Day confirmed what many suspected — that Stroud was separating himself from McCord, Miller and new enrollee Quinn Ewers. The No. 1 recruit in the 2021 class, Ewers was set to join Ohio State in 2022, but re-classified and joined the Buckeyes due to new name, image and likeness (NIL) rules. However, he arrived too late into preseason camp to seriously challenge for the starting job.
“I guess it’s really a body of work over 27 practices, when you count the spring,” Day said of Stroud to the the Big Ten Network earlier this week. “We try to take it one day at a time and look at the body of work. It’s not one thing. Day in and day out, he’s making really good decisions. Leadership. Obviously, taking care of the football. The ability to win in the red zone and win on third down has been critical.”
Stroud joined the Buckeyes in 2020, but his offseason was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though he did not attempt a pass last season, Stroud came off the bench in three games and scored on a 48-yard run during a 52-12 win over Michigan State in December.
Though Stroud has been named the starter, Ohio State’s quarterback battle has been a rare competition among multiple former blue-chip recruits. The pressure to keep his job, especially with Ewers joining the fold sooner than expected, will be palpable throughout the 2021 season as the Buckeyes eye another College Football Playoff and national championship run.