Ohio State football: How Kyle McCord compares to previous QBs under Ryan Day

Nov 4, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Kyle McCord (6) lines up during the first half of the NCAA football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium.
Nov 4, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Kyle McCord (6) lines up during the first half of the NCAA football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium. /

It’s no secret to Ohio State football fans that there are some concerns with the quarterback position. Throughout the first nine games of the season, third-year quarterback Kyle McCord has flashed some ability to win games, but the manner in which he does so rings some alarm bells for Buckeye Nation.

While the numbers show McCord has been above average, with 17 touchdown passes to just four interceptions on a 65 percent completion percentage, watching the games feels like a different story.

Over half of those touchdowns were thrown to junior wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., arguably the best collegiate player in the country. And to some, including myself, Harrison often bails McCord out with his elite ball-catching skills and body placement.

But has McCord been playing that poorly, or has the Ohio State football program been blessed with quarterback talent since head coach Ryan Day joined the coaching staff in 2017? In order to figure out how McCord stacks up, I looked at how the four previous quarterbacks have performed in their first year with Day at the offensive helm.

In 2017, Day’s first season as assistant offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the offense ran through J.T. Barrett, a four-year starter who was the primary starter during the 2014 National Championship run before being injured in the final regular season game. Barrett, statistically, was electric in 2017, finishing the season with 47 total touchdowns, second in the FBS behind then-Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The 2018 season was Day’s first ushering in a new quarterback, in the form of the late Dwayne Haskins, as well as his first experience coaching at the FBS level. Then-head coach Urban Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season after allegations came to light of Meyer seemingly knowing that former wide receivers coach Zach Smith had domestic violence allegations.

Day went 3-0, including a win over then-No. 15 TCU in Arlington, Texas, before Meyer came back. Haskins set Ohio State football records ablaze under Day, leading the FBS in passing yards and passing touchdowns, setting program records by a wide margin, and becoming a first-round NFL Draft pick.

In 2019, Justin Fields transferred from Georgia and picked up where Haskins left off, putting up gaudy statistics and becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist, leading the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title in Day’s first full season as a head coach.

Finally, in 2021, C.J. Stroud took over the helm from Fields, and put up startling statistics himself en route to becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

C.J. Stroud sets another NFL record. light. Related Story

Now with McCord, it’s safe to assume he is not going to be a first-round draft pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft. However, does that mean he’s been terrible, or have Ohio State football fans been spoiled with elite quarterback play the last half-decade? Here is how McCord stacks up with previous quarterbacks under Day in their first seasons through the first nine games.

The list is laid out in the following order: the player (the year they played), completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, interceptions, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per attempt, and record.

Barrett (2017): 67.5% completion percentage, 2,374 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 517 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns, 8.48 yards per attempt, 7-2 record

Haskins (2018): 69.7% completion percentage, 3,053 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 45 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 8.80 yards per attempt, 8-1 record

Fields (2019): 68.2% completion percentage,1,859 passing yards, 27 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, 347 rushing yards,10 rushing touchdowns, 8.81 yards per attempt, 9-0 record

Stroud (2021): 68.8% completion percentage, 3,036 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 5 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdowns, 9.76 yards per attempt, 8-1 record

McCord (2023): 65.0% completion percentage, 2,352 passing yards, 17 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, -57 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdowns, 9.15 yards per attempt, 9-0 record

Now obviously the numbers don’t tell the whole story regarding the quarterback play. For example, Fields didn’t play many fourth quarters in the first nine games of the 2019 season, as the 2019 Ohio State football team won by over 42 points per game through their first nine games. Included in the rushing statistics are sack yards, so it’s evident which quarterbacks were dual-threats and which ones were pocket passers.

Now the numbers in fact show McCord is performing below the standard set by his predecessors. But, with each season comes a new team and new identity. The teams that Stroud played under notoriously had spotty defenses, and he had to play from behind as early as Week 2 of the 2021 season in the 35-28 loss to Oregon.

I’m not going to argue that McCord is a world-beater, and can win games with his arm talent alone. What I will argue, however, is that McCord has been good enough thus far to get Ohio State where it needs to be, which is currently the No. 1 team in the country.

While in my opinion, McCord clearly isn’t as talented as the previous four quarterbacks under the Day regime, he is a good enough game manager. With an elite defense, and the return of running back TreVeyon Henderson, perhaps “good enough” from their quarterback may be enough to return to the National Championship.

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But there is still a lot of football to be played, and it remains to be seen whether McCord will sink or swim with all the pressure on him to be elite.