Ever since Ryan Day inherited the program, the Ohio State quarterback position has been filled with elite talent. That is, until this past year. The Buckeyes were led by Kyle McCord who was able to get the job done for about 90% of the year. However, the Buckeyes were not able to beat Michigan for the third year in a row. Naturally, they were not able to get to the Big Ten Championship, let alone win it.
Every year, Ohio State says it has three goals: beat Michigan, win the Big Ten, and win the College Football Playoff National Championship. In the Day era, the Buckeyes are 3/14 in that category (the Ohio State-Michigan game was not played in 2020). They beat Michigan and won the Big Ten in 2019 and won the Big Ten in 2020. The team is 1-3 in the CFP.
Even with an elite defense, the Buckeyes seem to go as their quarterback goes. With just the Cotton Bowl to go, the Ohio State quarterback position is under plenty of scrutiny and fans are wondering what the plan is.
Making Sense of the Ohio State Quarterback Conundrum
The Buckeyes and the Portal
Of the many quarterbacks in the first transfer portal window, none took home as many wins as McCord. In terms of yardage, he finished with the fourth-most passing yards compared to those who jumped in the Portal over the first couple of weeks.
With McCord gone, there is a vacancy in Columbus. He won the job for a reason, so those currently in the room would be a step back from him, no matter if the belief is that the grass is greener down the depth chart. There could have been development, of course, but the prevailing opinion has been that next year’s Ohio State quarterback should be a one-year rental via the Portal.
Giving the young quarterback room time to develop would be better than throwing them to wolves but the only person who knows what Day is doing is Day.
A Portal Strategy…or Lack Thereof
When the portal opened, Ohio State was linked to quarterbacks like Cam Ward, Maalik Muprhy, Dante Moore, and Riley Leonard. Those thinking outside the box threw out names like Dequan Finn, Dillon Gabriel, or D.J. Uiagalelei. With two weeks passed, Ohio State has yet to earn a commitment. And Finn committed to Baylor Sunday night.
The Buckeyes were the favorite to land Ward but the Washington State quarterback took visits to Miami (FL) and Florida State and didn’t have another visit planned. Murphy has not set a visit to Columbus yet. Moore is an interesting case as he wouldn’t be a one-and-done and he and his family are keeping a lot of their moves close to the vest. Ohio State tried to get a visit with Leonard but he was never on campus and committed to Notre Dame.
Finn has only visited Baylor. Michigan, oddly enough, is Vegas’ favorite to land the former Toledo star. Gabriel was a pipe dream as he quickly ended up at Oregon. And Uiagalelei is looking like he will be scooped up by whichever ACC program doesn’t get Ward.
In terms of smoke, there is no smoke regarding Ohio State and the Transfer Portal. It’s the Wild, Wild West out here and anything can happen. However, don’t be surprised if Ohio State doesn’t add a starting quarterback via the Portal.
Quarterbacks for the Bowl
No matter what happens in the transfer portal, the Ohio State quarterback room is set for the Cotton Bowl. All signs are pointing to Devin Brown starting and taking over the offense against Missouri with Lincoln Kienholz backing him up. There were thoughts that Tristan Gebbia would take over for this game alone due to his veteran presence but it looks like Day is going with one of his talented backups.
Kienholz is a talented freshman in his own right but he threw the ball five times for 25 yards thus far.
Brown came into the season competing with McCord to be the full-time starter. That competition spilled into the season as the Buckeyes tried to see what each player had before getting into the meat of the season. As the dust settled, Brown lost.
What Can Brown Do for You?
On the year, Brown appeared in five games for a total of 72 snaps. The bulk of those (35) came against Youngstown State. On the year, he managed 197 yards and two touchdowns off of 12-for-22 passing and added an interception. On the ground, he totaled 35 yards and one score off of 19 rushes.
Ever since that Youngstown State game, Brown was essentially relegated to a goal-line package. Which, to be fair, is better than most back-up quarterbacks. During the battle, Brown flashed but was inconsistent. On one hand, he could break off a big run off of a scramble or find Carnell Tate on a beautiful ball downfield against Western Kentucky. In that Youngstown State game, Brown missed a lot of routine throws and underthrew his receiver numerous times.
Perhaps playing in the Cotton Bowl without having to look over his shoulder will do Brown well. However, his play in limited action is why the Ohio State quarterback anxiety is through the roof.
The 2024 Starter Will Be…
The decision is going to be between Brown, Kienholz, a potential transfer, and incoming freshman, Air Noland. There are a lot of question marks going forward.
With how quiet the transfer front has been, it would be understandable to think that Ohio State just is not splashing around in those waters. Now, “guys” with “sources” on podcasts may believe the Buckeyes have their guy but nobody will know until it’s all officially announced.
The best thing for the Buckeyes is to have a full-on, actual quarterback competition between the three in the room. Even if Brown has a C.J. Stroud-Rose Bowl-type game, he needs to be pushed. Blind squirrels and all that.
Kienholz was a very talented, very prolific passer in his time in South Dakota. He came out of the 2023 class as the top-rated player in the state and 1th-best quarterback in the nation. In high school, he was a pass-first kind of player but could take off when needed.
Neither Brown nor Kienholz is as dynamic of a runner as Ohio State has had in the past. However, they can both do more in that area than McCord. Whoever can do “the routine things routinely,” as Day put it when choosing McCord, they’ll have a leg up.
Air the Heir
The wild card for next year will be that true freshman. As with any talented recruit, he’s lauded as the next big thing. He’s more athletic than the two ahead of him and could even have a better arm. Ohio State hasn’t started off the season with a true freshman at quarterback. However, there could be a Terrelle Pryor/Todd Boeckman or Braxton Miller/Joe Bauserman situation unfolding. Noland is not as highly rated as either quarterback was but Ohio State fans do not tolerate less than elite quarterback play, for better or for worse.
If you had to place a bet, Brown will be the odds-on favorite to be the starter on August 31st against Akron. However, anything can happen over the next eight-plus months. Noland is enrolling early and the dust has not settled in the Portal. Anything can happen.