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Football: Stroud poised to prove himself wrong, everyone else right

The Lantern
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Ohio State 3rd year quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) threw for 44 touchdowns and led Ohio State to an 11 win season. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

By all standards, third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud played well last season. In his first season as the starter, Stroud led Ohio State to 11 wins, threw 44 touchdowns and finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

However, his biggest critic happens to be himself.

Despite being named Big Ten Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year and setting 17 Ohio State records in 2021, Stroud said he feels he hasn’t earned the praise bestowed upon him.

“I think I’m my biggest critic,” Stroud said during Big Ten Media Days in July. “Honestly, I don’t think I really did a lot. I feel like I’ve barely touched my potential, and I feel like I can do a lot more. I think I can always be better.”

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, Stroud is currently the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, according to VegasInsider. But to his team, it’s not arm strength or ball placement that impresses them the most, but rather Stroud’s composure and maturity.

“I think C.J. has really grown in terms of leadership this year,” head coach Ryan Day said. “He has a much wider perspective on everything that’s going on, not just his job. He sees it almost as a coach right now.”

Stroud did not take kindly to the fact Ohio State lost to rival Michigan and missed out on both the Big Ten and National Championship games last season. The work he’s put in throughout the offseason drew attention from his coaches and teammates.

As such, the Inland Empire, California, native was one of si x players voted team captain for the 2022 season and received the most votes. Stroud said he feels blessed to be in a position to lead the team on and off the football field.

Quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis said while Stroud is making strides as a vocal leader, it’s the work ethic that speaks louder about him than what he says.

“It wouldn’t have mattered what kind of year he had last year,” Dennis said. “He wants to get better. He’s always trying to work on his craft. And he’s always trying to find something to get better at.”

While Stroud’s talent speaks for itself, his teammates noted that their confidence in him grew during the offseason. Impressed by how he carries himself, second-year wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. said the trust between Stroud and the receivers lets them play with more confidence.

“Playing with C.J. is fun,” Harrison Jr. said. “A lot of quarterbacks might tuck it and run, but he’s going to throw it up to his receivers. And we definitely trust him. He’s a leader on and off the field.”

Dennis said the team “gravitates around him” as Stroud works to become a better quarterback with every snap.

Despite finishing in the top five in numerous passing categories last season, the third-year quarterback said he thinks there’s more to develop. Stroud specifically named Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady as someone he looks up to, noting that he and Brady share a similar mindset of bettering themselves every year.

Day said the team worked on Stroud’s all-around game during the offseason. They did not have one particular area of focus, but Day said “everyday is a work in progress.”

“Just getting my body weight right,” Stroud said. “I think I’m up to 220 now, and I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m the fastest I’ve been since I’ve been alive. I’ve definitely seen the growth not only in the weight room, but mentally as well.”

Now that Stroud is officially christened a leader of the Ohio State football team, he said he takes it upon himself to bond with his teammates outside of practice. According to his teammates, Stroud’s culinary skills might be his most unique.

“I think a lot of people don’t know he’s teaching people how to cook,” Harrison Jr. said. “C.J. is a great person to know on and off the field and to be around.”

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