COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Kyle McCord sat behind Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud for two seasons before taking over the pressure-cooker responsibility of being the starting quarterback at Ohio State.
Under the tutelage of quarterback whisperer Ryan Day, McCord has earned his stripes, thanks in part to being able to throw to All-American receiver — and former high school teammate — Marvin Harrison Jr. The third-ranked Buckeyes are 7-0 (4-0 Big Ten) after Saturday's 20-12 win over previously beaten Penn State.
“It starts in practice, being consistent in practice,” said Ohio State coach Ryan Day, who named McCord as the starter after a preseason competition between McCord and Devin Brown. “And that's what it comes down to is being consistent, trusting your feet, trusting your eyes and then making the routine plays routinely, and then taking care of the football. I think there have definitely been signs where we've done that, and when we do the offense is rolling."
Other Big Ten quarterbacks starting for the first time this season have taken more circuitous routes, found more playing time through the transfer portal and produced more varied results.
— Penn State’s Drew Allar was rolling right along until running into the Ohio State defense. The second-year quarterback, who took over the starting job when Sean Clifford left after five years, passed for 191 yards and a touchdown against the Buckeyes but was sacked four times. Still, he’s 6-1 as the starter and gets a shot at No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 11.
— Mississippi State transfer Braedyn Locke had thrown just one career pass before taking over at Wisconsin when starter Tanner Mordecai broke his hand on Oct. 14. Last week, in his first career start, Locke sparked a comeback from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit in a 25-21 victory at Illinois. “The guy’s got incredible poise for a young guy that went out there today and (was) put in a really, really tough situation, and he performed really well,” Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell said.
— Heinrich Haarberg is 4-1 as Nebraska’s starter since taking over the job from Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims. The third-year player is a fan favorite because he hails from a small high school in Kearney, two hours west of Lincoln. He was a non-factor his first two years in the program, but first-year coach Matt Rhule likes Haarberg’s size and toughness, and didn’t hesitate to give him the job after Sims struggled in the first two games. Haarberg is a willing runner but limited as a passer. He's seventh in the Big Ten in rushing with 424 yards and four touchdowns for the Huskers (4-3, 2-2).
— Gavin Wimsatt has already gotten Rutgers (6-2, 3-2) bowl-eligible in his first full year as a starter. The third-year player rushed for a career-high 143 yards — the most by a Scarlett Knights quarterback in school history — and three touchdowns in Saturday’s 31-14 win over Indiana. He’s thrown for 1,134 yards and seven touchdowns.
— Luke Altmyer played sparingly in two seasons at Ole Miss before transferring to Illinois (3-5, 1-4), where he has passed for 1,671 yards this season and 10 TDs and rushed for 301 yards and three more scores.
— Hudson Card languished on the depth chart for three seasons at Texas before moving to Purdue, where he's averaged a career-high 231 passing yards per game for the Boilermakers (2-5, 1-3).
If the name Ben Bryant sounds familiar, there’s good reason. Bryant was already somewhat of a journeyman when he joined Northwestern for his sixth season of eligibility. He played for three at Cincinnati, then jumped to Eastern Michigan for a season, before returning to Cincinnati last season. The 24-year-old’s plan to finish at Northwestern took a hit when he was injured Sept. 30 and hasn’t played since. Second-year backup Brendan Sullivan has started the last two games and the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3) have struggled. Sullivan was sacked seven times in last week’s loss to Nebraska.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee, Tom Canavan and Eric Olson contributed.
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