The Ohio State Buckeyes are hosting an open quarterback competition to replace Justin Fields, and even though there are multiple signal-callers in the running, oddsmakers view C.J. Stroud as the prohibitive favorite to start.
According to the latest lines released Wednesday by Sports Betting, Stroud is a -300 favorite over fellow Buckeyes contenders Kyle McCord, Quinn Ewers and Jack Miller:
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What really throws a mind-blowing wrench into the whole situation is Ewers’ decision to forgo his senior year of high school to enroll a full year early in Columbus. That happened mere days ago. Look how close bookmakers already have him to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
Like, who does that? Well, when you’re the No. 1 overall prospect in the country by 247 Sports’ evaluation, it makes sense to maybe fast track the path to college — especially with the new name, image and likeness profiting opportunities.
But let’s go a little deeper on Ewers and the other chief contenders who could be leading the Buckeyes’ offense when they suit up to take on Minnesota in Week 1 of the 2021 college football season.
Breaking down Ohio State QB competition contenders
We’ll circle back to Ewers in a second. Let’s focus first on Stroud, since he’s viewed as the leader in the clubhouse at this point.
A redshirt freshman, Stroud patiently waited until Fields made the eventual leap to first-round NFL draft pick of the Chicago Bears. What little action he did get in 2020, though, he made the most of.
On his only official attempt from the line of scrimmage, Stroud ripped off a 48-yard touchdown run against Michigan State. That shows the type of running potential he has, even though he’s not as fleet of foot as, say, Fields was — but then again, who is?
You have to love Stroud’s mentality, too, which he recently described to Cleveland.com’s Stephen Means.
“I feel like I’m last,” Stroud said of his place in the Ohio State QB competition. “I feel like I’m in the back. I’ve had a mindset since I was little to have a chip on my shoulder. It’s just where I come from. I’m always the underdog, and I like that feeling.”
Stroud actually is more known for his throwing prowess, with 247Sports rating him as the No. 2 pro-style prospect in the class of 2019 and comparing him to Teddy Bridgewater. If he proves to be that accurate and savvy with his decision-making, it’s no wonder Stroud is currently the Buckeyes’ QB1.
It was thought that McCord would be the true freshman to actually challenge Stroud, especially off an impressive Spring Game throwing showcase. That is, until Ewers suddenly burst onto the scene. Now, McCord is really going to have to fight to fend off Ewers for the backup job.
If there’s a choice whether to redshirt McCord or Ewers, the former will probably get the nod. That’s why if you’re going to bet on anyone to eclipse Stroud as the starter, McCord probably isn’t the best bet.
The Buckeyes are liable to play the long game with him, and envision him as the eventual successor to Ewers — if he’s patient enough or doesn’t get supplanted by another elite recruit. At this point, McCord is more filled-out physically than Ewers, but he’s more of a pure pocket passer than any type of running threat.
Because Ewers is a smoother athlete and more of a threat with his legs in Ohio State’s scheme, which frequently deploys the read-option, it’s no surprise as to why McCord is barely ahead of his new classmate for the backup gig despite obvious throwing prowess.
Honestly, the 18-year-old could learn a little bit on the job and hold his own as the Buckeyes’ starter in 2021. That’s how freaking good he is.
Ewers is the most prized recruit at QB Ohio State has had since Terrelle Pryor, and make no mistake, he’s already a better thrower than Pryor ever turned out to be.
With an unconventional but dazzling and lightning-quick three-quarter release, plenty of arm strength and advanced ball placement already demonstrated, Ewers is a phenomenal arm talent. He also rocks a mullet, which is fun and should lead to a truckload of NIL deals.
Just watch. If Stroud stumbles even a little bit out of the gates, Ewers is the most likely candidate to replace him. If you’re going to bet on anyone to supplant Stroud, it’s this prodigy.
He wasn’t as highly touted as McCord or Ewers coming out of high school, so it’s no wonder the potential of McCord and Ewers has caused Miller to slide to No. 4 in the Ohio State QB derby in oddsmakers’ eyes.
Nevertheless, Miller was believed to be the top contender to unseat Stroud if anyone was going to rise up. Like Stroud, Miller made an impact in his brief action last year, logging two carries, 25 yards and a score versus Nebraska.
Given how much of a long shot he is and how two true first-years appear to have him on the ropes, look for Miller to transfer and potentially be a quality starter at another program.