COLUMBUS — There was never any doubt Ohio State wanted to get two quarterbacks in its 2020 recruiting class.
If there was a surprise, it was that OSU added two quarterbacks as highly rated as C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller, both 4-star recruits and both with offers from some of the best programs in college football.
Most teams would have been happy to get one big-time quarterback recruit and one who might turn into a solid QB at some point in his career.
But Ohio State is not most schools, as Stroud’s reaction to knowing Ohio State was seriously interested in him illustrates.
“I just knew my life changed at that moment,” Stroud said during a recent interview.
Miller, from Scottsdale, Ariz., committed to the Buckeyes before his junior season. Stroud, from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., debated among offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, Georgia and USC, and didn’t commit to OSU until last December.
If spring practice had not been canceled after three practices because of the coronavirus, the competition between the two young quarterbacks, who both enrolled in January, would have been one of the biggest stories of the spring at Ohio State.
They would have been watched closely to see if either could seize the back-up quarterback role as a freshman and to see if either looked like he was making a move to be the heir apparent to Justin Fields, who almost certainly will explore his NFL options after this season.
“For them, it’s unfortunate because spring practice is so important to young quarterbacks,” OSU coach Ryan Day said earlier this week.
“I was very impressed with how they came in and worked. Of all the players, those two and the four (freshman) receivers are going to miss it the most. There is nothing like taking snaps. The sooner we get them under center, the better,” he said.
Stroud threw for 3,878 yards and 47 touchdowns as a senior in high school. His recruiting profile really started to grow after being named the MVP of the Elite 11 quarterbacks camp last summer.
He describes how he plays quarterback this way: “I feel like my game is very versatile. I think I do a lot of things good if you ask me. I don’t like to brag. But I just think I can run pretty well and I can throw.
“I think I can run a lot better than people predict me to. I think my accuracy is good and I think I’ll be able to read defenses and pick defenses apart.”
Ohio State’s first contact with Stroud didn’t come until last summer when Day texted him to say OSU was interested in him.
“When Coach Day texted me, I was like, ‘This is a sign,’ ” Stroud said. “I got on my knees and prayed. I knew God had a plan for my life. My life story, I’m not going to go into it, but I’ve been through a lot of things and had a lot of hardships. But God has always made me strong in those situations.”
An unofficial visit the weekend Ohio State beat Michigan State last season played a big role in convincing Stroud to choose OSU.
“To be honest. I thought it was going to be another USC or UCLA. But when I got here for my first unofficial visit for the Michigan State game, going into the stadium, I could see the tradition and the people outside and the walk into the old basketball arena with the chants and the motivational speeches.
“Then you get into the stadium and it’s 105,000 and everybody is squeezed against each other. Everybody is screaming their lungs out for the Buckeyes to win. That was the support I wanted in my college experience. I wanted to play in front of that so I could get ready for the next level,” he said.
Stroud says he is very competitive. “I always want to compete. I’m competing with anything moving. That’s just my mind-set.”
But he also says that does not mean every day is a grim battle with Miller. “We hang out all the time, we go out to eat, we watched the Super Bowl together,” he said.
“You know you’re going to come in and compete against great players. It goes with the territory.
Right now, I’m focused on being the quarterback at Ohio State. I think everything will work out. Me and Jack, no matter what happens, he’s going to have a great career in football and I’m going to have a great career in football.”
Jim Naveau covers the Ohio State University football team for Aim Media Midwest affiliate The Lima News.