Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud on track to start against Akron despite lingering injury to throwing shoulder

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud will practice this week and is on track to start Saturday against Akron despite a lingering injury to his throwing shoulder.

Coach Ryan Day on Tuesday said Stroud will continue to be monitored and that it’s possible Ohio State’s other quarterbacks, Kyle McCord and Jack Miller III, could see time against Akron. The primary goal, Day said, is to get Stroud in rhythm and comfortable with the offense before the 10th-ranked Buckeyes begin Big Ten play next week against Rutgers.

Stroud said, following last week’s win over Tulsa, that he’s not 100% but still healthy enough to play. The redshirt freshman completed 15 of 25 passes for a season-low 185 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble in Ohio State’s 41-20 victory.

“When you get more reps under your belt, you feel more comfortable and then you rep it better in practice and all those things add up, all things that we’re working through with a young quarterback,” Day said. “I think that there’s a lot of great football ahead for C.J. Stroud. When you look at kind of the situation he’s been put into, and some of the throws he’s made, you can see he can do it. Now we just got to keep growing on it.”

Growth is a theme for Stroud, who played sparingly behind Justin Fields last season, and the 2-1 Buckeyes. Day on Tuesday reiterated that a shortened 2020 season, in which Ohio State only played Big Ten opponents, limited the opportunities for younger players — who are now in key roles — to log field time. The third-year coach said he “didn’t have many expectations” because of all the unknowns.

“We’re going to be steadfast in getting the experience that we need, but then also forging an identity as a team,” Day said. “What identity do we want to have as a team [with] this this group right here? I didn’t know what this would be. I didn’t have expectations. I’m hopeful that we can keep working and, as we look back here in a few weeks, we can see a lot of growth, that we did a really good job of coaching and building guys up and teaching.

“These first few weeks haven’t been ideal, but that’s life, too.”

Secondary coach Matt Barnes will continue to call defensive plays against Akron, after Day moved those responsibilities away from defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs. Although Ohio State’s struggling defense surrendered 25 first downs and 501 yards to Tulsa, Day thinks the unit is “moving in the right direction” with its game-day operations. He also praised Coombs for adjusting to the reduced role.

“He’s a proud Buckeye, so he’s done an unbelievable job in the last week of just pushing forward,” Day said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He loves this place and wants to win, and he’s working hard. He’s still a big part of the defense and still has a lot to do with it and still sees you know everything through the eyes of the coordinator. We’ve readjusted some roles, but he’s done an unbelievable job of being a pro and just working through it.”

Day said winning at Ohio State should not be taken for granted, and he’s trying to keep an inward focus as the team wraps up its first month.

“It’s always been about us,” Day said. “I don’t think, maybe other than once, where we were just beaten [last year’s national championship game against Alabama]. Every time we’ve lost the game around here, I’ve always felt like it’s been us, so it’s always a standard about who we are and being the best version of yourself.”

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