The Ohio State Buckeyes are clearly one of the elite programs in college football. While Alabama may be on top for all-around excellence and consistency, Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson are in the next tier because of their superior talent, recruiting, coaching and ability to come through in big games.

The Buckeyes have to say farewell to quarterback C.J. Stroud, as the talented quarterback has opted for the NFL Draft. He has a chance to be the No. 1 pick overall and it is clear that Stroud has the skill to become a game-changing quarterback at the pro level.

Stroud had a magnificent year for the Buckeyes, completing 258 of 389 passes for 3,688 yards with 41 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He was also the starter in the 2021 season when he threw for 4,435 yards with 44 TDs and 6 picks.

Stroud faced disappointment when Ohio State dropped its second consecutive game to archrival Michigan, but he bounced back with a powerful showing against eventual national champion Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 348 yards with 4 touchdowns  and no interceptions. Ohio State was a missed field goal away from competing for the national championship, dropping the game by a 42-41 score.

Head coach Ryan Day has to replace a great quarterback. He has two prime candidates who will compete for the job and at least one potential longshot.

Kyle McCord

McCord was a 5-star recruit in 2021, and he competed for the starting job with Stroud and another candidate for the starter’s job. McCord finished second to Stroud, and now he gets another chance to earn the No. 1 slot.

“I think just the more reps that you get, the more confident you get and the slower the game becomes for you. So that’s really where I’m at right now,” McCord said. “I mean, every single day I feel like I’m taking a step forward. So, just trying to continue on that path.”

McCord started one game in place of Stroud in 2021 and he completed 13 of 18 passes for 319 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception in a win over Akron.

He has gotten positive feedback from the coaching staff, and he is working on improving some technical details and taking steps to improve his leadership ability.

McCord also has the advantage of being the high school quarterback of star wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. The two have excellent chemistry together and it could make him an ideal candidate to take over the starting quarterback position for the Buckeyes.

Devin Brown

Brown was Ohio State’s No. 3 quarterback this season, and he was on the field for 15 plays during the 2022 season. None of those plays were passing attempts, but Brown has shown superior arm strength and timing when he has thrown the ball in open practice sessions.

Brown is likely to give the Buckeyes more of a running dimension than they had under Stroud. He is not a dynamic speedster, but he excels at making tacklers miss with his ability to use his blocks and change his speeds.

“I feel like I’m more of a playmaking type of guy. I feel like I used to just kind of be very like slow-paced with the offense I was in in Arizona, it was a little different,” Brown said. “And I feel like my game has changed completely, going into Corner Canyon (his Utah high school during his senior seasib), going into college. And you know, it’s changed like every year honestly, in my opinion. But I feel like I just have some good playmaking abilities.”

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While McCord is the favorite going into the QB battle, Brown has improved quite a bit since enrolling at Ohio State in January of 2022.

There was some speculation that Brown might enter the transfer portal, but Brown has said he is not going anywhere, and that he is looking forward to having his chance to show what he can do in this quarterback battle.

Lincoln Kienholz

Kienholz is an incoming freshman at Ohio State and he is the long shot in the quarterback battle. It would be a major upset if he beat out both McCord and Brown, but he is a talented 4-star recruit who was a three-sport star at T.F. Riggs HS in South Dakota.

Kienholz had a dynamic senior season, completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,422 yards with 46 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He is also a game-changing runner, and he had 1,435 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns.

Kienholz will join the team this summer after he finishes his senior year of high school. He will have a long way to go to win the job, but he is clearly a major talent