It’s rare for two highly-ranked quarterbacks to sign with the same college football program in the same recruiting cycle.
Jack Miller and CJ Stroud just became the first pair of signal-callers to sign with Ohio State since Joe Burrow and Torrance Gibson in 2015. Gibson, however, was switched to receiver about a week into his Buckeye career.
That means that Miller and Stroud could be the first pair of OSU freshman quarterbacks to go through a season together since Justin Zwick and Troy Smith all the way back in 2002.
Quarterback is an unusual position. While it’s easy for a team to rotate through a number of wide receivers or defensive lineman during any given game, most teams prefer to stick with a single QB.
In a zero-sum position like that, if you’re the guy who wins the job, that’s great. If you’re the other guy, it could mean that you’ll never take a snap with the game still in doubt in your entire career.
It’s an uncommon spot for quarterbacks to be in, especially for guys with as many options as Miller and Stroud.
Miller, the No. 13-ranked pro-style passer in the class held offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Michigan, among other schools.
Stroud, who finished as the No. 2-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class, picked the Buckeyes over programs like Georgia, Michigan, Oregon, and USC.
So why choose to go somewhere that you’re immediately in a battle with another great player? Miller, who committed more than 18 months ago, said that OSU kept him in the loop the whole time.
“They just said, ‘Hey, we’re probably gonna end up offering this guy and if you have any problems with it, let us know,'” Miller recalled. “I said, ‘No, you can offer whoever you want.’ I’m not that type of guy. I mean, you bring in whoever you want, I’m gonna compete with them.”
Knowing that Miller was headed to Columbus didn’t dissuade Stroud, either.
“I just prayed about it and I just always had the feeling from the first time I got here that Ohio State was the place for me and I never really thought about Jack being committed,” Stroud said.
OSU head coach Ryan Day said that even with two quarterbacks in the same class, the things that make the Buckeye program appealing to recruits are still there.
“We’re going to keep developing quarterbacks the way we have. I know that’s a huge part of why they’re here,” Day said.
So now that the pair of freshmen are in Columbus, what is it like being in what seems like a head-to-head battle this early in your college career?
“Our coaches here have done a great job of not making it a competition yet. But it is a competition,” Stroud said. “Me and Jack talk every day about the things we do. We compete against each other in the mat drills. It’s one of those things you get used to.”
“I think it’s a good balance,” Miller said. “I’m gonna be friends with all my teammates no matter what, and now obviously we’re competing for the same thing, but it’s a friendly competition.”
This will be the first time Day has had to juggle two quarterbacks in the same recruiting class since arriving in Columbus. He said it won’t change anything for the way they do things.
“It’s not going to be any different than if those guys were in different years. They’re still going to have the same reps. They’re still going to compete the same way. And it’s okay to have really good quarterbacks in a room together in an offense that’s exciting,” Day said.
The quarterbacks got to know each other on the all-star circuit, spending time together at the Elite 11 and The Opening. And since arriving in Columbus, they’ve gotten to be better friends off the field.
“Most definitely. Me and Jack, we go out to eat all the time. We chill with Trey Leroux and Paris Johnson. We hang out in the dorms,” Stroud said. “Me and Jack watched the whole Super Bowl together. It’s just little things that people don’t see. They think we may just argue with each other. But it’s never like that.”
While that may sound a little strange, JT Barrett and Cardale Jones were extremely close friends while also battling for the starting quarterback job during their careers. The competition between them helped drive both to be better. Stroud and Miller are hoping something similar plays out with them.
“Me and Jack, no matter what happens, he’s going to have a great career in football and I’m going to have a great career in football. I think both of us will help each other throughout the way and everything will take care of itself,” said Stroud.
Miller had a similar perspective.
“It’s just football,” he said. “At the end of the day we want the same thing and we’re both gonna work our tails off to get there.”