Kyle McCord earned Ohio State football’s starting job — and another chance to prove himself

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kyle McCord could have followed the trend and left Ohio State football long before Ryan Day named him Saturday’s opening day starter at Indiana.
When C.J. Stroud’s emergence in 2021 meant a likely three-year wait to take over the starting job. When Quinn Ewers’ arrival that same August unexpectedly — and, as it turned out, only briefly — inserted a competitor into his signing class.
“Even though it didn’t happen exactly right away for me, I knew that it was a marathon, and that if I stuck around and trusted the process and kept getting better that I would put myself in a good position,” McCord said on the eve of preseason camp.
The payoff always seemed worth the patience. In those early years, what situation elsewhere offered more upside than being one snap away from taking over as Ohio State’s starter? What destination offered a outcome so enticing that it justified throwing away a chance at an open competition to follow in the lineage of Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields and Stroud?
McCord’s payoff finally came Monday morning. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day told his quarterbacks that McCord will start against the Hoosiers but Devin Brown will also play. By Day’s telling, both of the men who competed for the job since last April endorsed the fairness of that arrangement.
This starting assignment is more crowded — and potentially more tenuous — than what McCord likely visualized when he committed to the Buckeyes in April 2019. Regardless, when Brown surged this summer and made a compelling case for the job, McCord responded. Day said McCord’s consistency over the past two weeks won the right to start.
First things first. Before he can win at Notre Dame or Wisconsin or end the losing streak to Michigan, McCord must fully take the reins of the first-team offense and prepare to drive it against Indiana on Sept. 2.
“That was very encouraging,” Day said of the way McCord closed preseason camp. “Now it’s time to go play in games, though. We certainly have seen enough in practice to believe that both guys can perform in the game. Now it’s time to go put it on the field.”
An eight-month process reached a destination, where a new and greater challenge awaited. To break this tie and give one quarterback the ball first, Day had to judge them against each other. In reality, both McCord and Brown have chased something less tangible — not a person, but rather a standard.
McCord took his shot at that standard as a true freshman. He was not yet equipped to supplant Stroud, who spent two season becoming the standard bearer for what Day wants in a brainy, mistake-averse quarterback. He looked solid, though not yet special, in his spot start that season against Akron.
We know McCord possesses the arm strength to attack vertically with Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming and the rest of this arsenal. We believe, based on what we saw in the spring, that it comes with the judgment necessary to take calculated risks and make the safe choice when warranted.
Being named the starter in a two-quarterback approach still carries weight. McCord has the first opportunity to put his stamp on the offense. Day made it clear he will have an opportunity to learn from his mistakes without the threat of a quick hook.
Day fully expects adversity to arise Saturday afternoon. Stroud experienced his share in his first start. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles talked about McCord’s cool, collected poise, and it could be one of his best assets Saturday.
“You can’t get out in front of yourself when things are going well, or when things aren’t going well, then you can’t panic,” Day said. “That’s part of the game. That’s the thing about practice. When you when you have a good play, or a bad play, it’s on to the next one.
“Now when you’re in a game, there’s consequences for whatever you do. That’s going to be part of this, is understanding where you are in the game, managing games, not panicking.”
In a sense, McCord has played with his back against a wall. He always had much more to lose from the quarterback competition. When Brown pulled ahead of McCord, Day told him so, leaving it up to the older competitor whether he would summon a sustained period of improved performance.
He did. Now he has to build another case — that Day’s decision was the correct one, and that he can reach that lofty standard.

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