COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — NBC4 Sports Director Jerod Smalley spoke one-on-one with Ryan Day about what he learned during the unprecedented 2020 season, his thoughts on the QB competition with Justin Fields departing, and key players returning to Columbus.
Ohio State went 7-1 during the shortened season highlighted by a win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal. But it ended in disappointment with a 52-24 loss to Alabama in the National Championship.
Evaluating the National Championship loss
“You’re talking about two very different lead ins into that game. Alabama had a much more normal year in the amount of games that they played, didn’t really have games cancelled like we did or lose guys and get out of rhythm during the season,” Day said. “But to come out of that game and say we’re that much far away from Alabama, I don’t think that’s accurate at all.”
Day also spoke about the challenges of not having a routine during the season, constantly changing plans, replacing players and the physical and mental toll the season took on the team.
“Things were constantly getting changed and that’s not easy for anybody,” Day said. “I think there was a point where we might’ve been doing less physical work than we typically would but guys were just exhausted, staff, players, because they just didn’t know what was coming next and I think that takes a lot away from you.”
Replacing Justin Fields
Justin Fields’ career at Ohio State ends with a 20-2 record, 5,373 passing yards, 63 passing touchdowns, a 68.4% completion percentage, 867 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.
Fields will go down as one, if not the best, Buckeyes’ quarterbacks of all time leading OSU to a win over Clemson by throwing a Sugar Bowl record six touchdowns while playing through excruciating pain. Fields was also a Heisman finalist in the 2019 season.
Replacing Fields will be a tall task and it will likely fall to either CJ Stroud or Jack Miller III.
Miller is a four-star quarterback from Scottsdale, Arizona and was ranked as the 13th-best pro-style QB for the class of 2020, according to 24/7 Sports.
Stroud is also a four-star quarterback who hails from Rancho Cucamonga, California and was ranked as the 2nd-best pro-style QB for the class of 2020, per 24/7 Sports.
Both players saw minimal time during the shortened season and neither threw a single pass.
Kyle McCord, an incoming freshman from Philadelphia, has an outside shot of earning the starting role. He was ranked the No. 3 pro-style QB for the class of 2021 by 24/7 Sports and arrived in Columbus on Friday.
“It’s another thing that’s kind of lingering from last year not getting to play those six games. These guys would’ve had that experience and we would’ve had a better feel for where they’re at,” Day said. “It’ll be a great opportunity for them to compete in the spring and that’ll continue into the preseason.”
Fields is joined by several other Buckeyes who declared for the NFL, but many players are returning to Columbus including wide receiver Chris Olave, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and offensive tackle Tommy Togiai.
“I think the easy thing to do is just to run and go to the NFL and chase the money. But none of these guys wanted to,” Day said. “The fact that they still want to come back and be a part of this thing does show you how special the brotherhood is here and the culture is strong, but I think the thing they understand is that it’s not just about making it to the NFL, it’s what you do when you get there.”
2021 Ohio State schedule
The 2021 schedule has already been announced, with it scheduled to start on Thursday, Sept. 2 at Minnesota.
Sept. 2, at Minnesota
Sept. 11, Oregon
Sept. 18, Tulsa
Sept. 25, Akron
Oct. 2, at Nebraska
Oct. 9, Purdue
Oct. 23, at Rutgers
Oct. 30, Michigan State
Nov. 6, at Indiana
Nov. 13, Maryland
Nov. 20, Penn State
Nov. 27, at Michigan