Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud has received an important endorsement ahead of his first start for the Buckeyes.
His receivers say he can do the job.
“C.J. is a rare talent, I believe,” said Chris Olave, a senior who has already caught passes from a pair of first-round NFL Draft picks in his time at Ohio State.
After breaking in during Dwayne Haskins Jr.’s record-breaking 2018 campaign, Olave grew into an All-Big Ten receiver the past two seasons playing with Justin Fields.
Olave said Stroud, a redshirt freshman from Cucamonga, Calif., does not have Fields’ ability as a runner but can make all the throws necessary for the Buckeyes to continue to have one of the best passing games in the country.
“He’s from California just like me so we’ve just been working a lot this offseason, trying to get timing down, chemistry down,” said Olave, who is from San Ysidro. “A lot of extra work, early work, late-night work so just trying to build that chemistry. His arm talent is off the charts, so he’s gonna put the ball there where we need it. We’ve just got to make plays on outside.”
That is the message coach Brian Harline has been giving his guys since spring ball.
Playing with a freshman quarterback can be viewed as a challenge, or an opportunity.
“Our job is to always be in the right spot at the right time and and be uncovered,” said Hartline, a receiver himself at Ohio State who had to transition from senior Todd Boeckman to true freshman Terrelle Pryor during his last season in Scarlet and Gray. “I would say that C.J. absolutely has elevated our game, and we are a better room because of him playing at quarterback.”
Garrett Wilson, who joins Olave to form the other half of Ohio State’s All-Big Ten First Team receiver duo, paid Stroud high praise when he compared him to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (no relation).
“That comparison came about because Russell Wilson throws the best deep ball to me, him or Aaron Rodgers,” Wilson said. “Just the way the ball lands — it like falls on a receiver.”
That kind of throw is easier to catch because it provides options for the receiver.
“You can either let it fall over your shoulder or go up and high point it depending on what feels more comfortable,” Wilson said. “That gives you the best chance to make the play. And I mean, that’s one thing that as a receiver, you love having someone that drops the ball on you versus not being able to react as much.
“Sometimes a deep pass can be hard to react to if it’s on a line, you know what I mean? So just the fact that the ball falls on you gives you a better chance to make the catch.”
Stroud, who finished last season as Fields’ backup and relieved him briefly when Fields was banged up in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson, has not thrown a pass in a college game, but Wilson indicated he should be able to make them all when the time comes.
“There’s not a throw on the field he can’t make, and he’s taking on a leadership role at an early (age),” Wilson said. “He’s only been here two years, so for him taking on the role like he has this offseason — in this fall camp — it’s been huge.”
Hartline has admired the maturity Stroud has displayed so far.
“I think the most impressive thing with C.J. — not being in the (quarterbacks) room and hearing all the questions and answers and all that — has just been his calm and his poise. Like I haven’t seen any rattle from him. It’s just very mature of him. I think he is able to hit a throw, be happy about it, miss a throw, move on next throw and still hold himself accountable.”
More praise for young WRs
Like pretty much all the other Ohio State coaches to meet with reporters during the preseason, Hartline resisted talking depth chart.
He also became one of many to give him marks to freshmen receivers Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Jayden Ballard.
“They’ve done a really good job,” Hartline said. “I think the best thing they do is just taking meetings to the field and implementing things.
“They have a great mental approach to it, playing the mental game.”
Thursday, Sept. 2
Ohio State at Minnesota, 8 p.m., Fox, 1410