I stayed up until 5am to watch a recording of Notre Dame vs Ohio State, purposefully to watch C.J. Stroud.
It was more of the same from last year.
It’s obvious he is going to ‘wow’ a whole bunch of teams at his pro-day because his physical tools are obvious. He can get out of the pocket and throw off-balance and from different angles. The way he contorts his body and delivers from difficult launch points is very mondern-NFL.
He will no doubt do the one thing all QB’s do at pro-day nowadays in shorts and a T-shirt — run one way then throw across his body, against the grain, downfield. That clip will go viral, everyone on twitter will go nuts and some NFL scouts and coaches will be smitten.
However, his accuracy and consistency remains a big issue and I continue to wonder if he isn’t just a great big tease.
Stroud lost Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to the draft this year — both were top-12 picks. In the early exchanges he also lost likely first rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Without his arsenal of great weapons, there were some struggles early against Notre Dame. He seemed to lose composure and he toiled.
His timing was off, he threw behind and high. There were late throws. Granted there were occasions where receivers could’ve made his life easier too by settling down in zone and simply presenting a target. Yet you couldn’t help but notice the number of passes sailing off target.
At one point he was 11/13 for 82 yards on underneath throws (-10 yards) and 1/7 for 21 yards on +10 yard throws. The easy dump-offs were working but barely anything else was.
He settled down a bit in the second half, lobbing a nice seam-pass for a crucial touchdown — but there were still some misses.
I can’t help but think we’ve seen this before. A toolsy Ohio State QB with everything delivered on a plate. Favourable scheme, loads of weapons, physical tools. A player with talent but he can’t put it all together to be a rounded, competent quarterback.
The way he managed this game was in stark contrast to Florida’s Anthony Richardson. He seemed in complete command of his offense and played the percentages. It was a lot more up-and-down for Stoud.
His short and intermediate game isn’t great and that’s where the accuracy problems show up the most. His awareness on third and medium isn’t great, unlike Richardson who knew to throw beyond the sticks to move the chains. His timing was off, he missed the mark too often and his screen passes would fit perfectly in Seattle in that they’re not very good.
The other side to the story though is Justin Herbert. At Oregon, he also had all the tools but was wildly erratic and underwhelming. He was stuck in a boring offense that required him to check-down and throw bubble-screens and short slants galore. We never got to see Herbert at his best (and I fear Tyler Van Dyke will be similarly restricted under the same coaching staff, now in Miami).
Yet once Herbert arrived in the NFL he took off. Playing in a more progressive offense that really showed off his physical tools — he became one of the stars of the league. He was unleashed. It’s not out of the question Stroud could do the same thing.
That’s the big question for Stroud. Is he another Herbert? After all, Herbert had 15 interceptions last year despite his blossoming stock. It’s not hard to imagine Stroud having some of the same issues but also some of the same positives as Herbert. And who wouldn’t take that? I’m not saying he is Herbert. I’m just trying to offset my concerns with the other side of what needs to be considered with Stroud.
To that extent, he’s in a similar boat to Will Levis — who I also think can be a Herbert type at the next level. I think there’s a bit more magic to Levis and it’s harder to elevate Kentucky than it is to win with Ohio State. He’s also coming from a pro-style offense working with a McVay disciple and now a Shanahan coach.
Both players will be debated for their pro’s and con’s a lot and probably analysed more than the other QB’s eligible for 2023. Bryce Young, eventually, is going to be viewed as a 5-9, 190lbs thrower without the sturdiness of other shorter QB’s (Brees, Wilson, Murray). Van Dyke is a fantastic player and should get more attention. Richardson, after his performance last night — will be the toast of the town this week. If he continues to perform the way he did on Sunday, the sky’s the limit for him.
For Stroud — I think perception is greater than reality at the moment. He will be one of the tougher players to analyse pre-draft. Do you believe in the physical upside enough to imagine he can star in the pro’s? Or is he going to be just too erratic and inconsistent to ever deliver on his potential?
After one week of college football, Florida’s Richardson would lead a draftable quarterback power-ranking. I have watched Levis vs Miami-Ohio and I thought he was terrific, despite the porous offensive line he was playing behind and what appeared to be a miscommunication on an interception. Other than that, he showed off his NFL arm and ability to drive the ball and make difficult pro-level throws look easy.
Ohio State play four home games to start the season. They next face powderpuff outings against Arkansas State and Toledo and then host Wisconsin. They won’t face a truly difficult test until Michigan on November 26th.
Stroud’s biggest showcase until Michigan came in his opening game. His team won — but it wasn’t a convincing performance.
If you missed my notes on Anthony Richardson and a host of other quarterbacks yesterday, click here.
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