QB auditions take center stage in Ohio State spring practice

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two-year starter C.J. Stroud is off to the NFL in the draft next month, which means Ohio State coach Ryan Day needs to find a new quarterback for 2023.

With no obvious heir apparent to Stroud, the quarterback derby is the overarching storyline as the Buckeyes open spring practice on Tuesday.

The race pits third-year backup Kyle McCord, who has seen limited action in his first two seasons, against second-year player Devin Brown.

“I’m hoping one of them emerges and we can name a starter (after spring practice). I really do,” Day said last month. “The way our dynamic is, it would be great for our program to be able to do that.”

McCord, from suburban Philadelphia, got mop-up duty last season, completing 16 of 20 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. He got more playing time in 2021, even starting a game and throwing for 319 yards when Stroud sat out for a rest in a rout of Akron.

Brown, who was coached at his Utah high school by former Buckeye quarterback Joe Germaine, has yet to throw a collegiate pass.

“There definitely is a blank slate,” quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis said of the competition. “I think that just the difference is the guys kind of know what areas that they want to work on, they want to improve on, and they want to go on. But no, absolutely. It’s a blank slate and it’ll be a fun spring for sure.”

For depth at the position, Day picked up transfer Tristan Gebbia, who had been a backup quarterback at Oregon State. An aspiring coach, Gebbia is expected to mentor the young quarterbacks.

Day has a good track record in these situations. He faced a similar quarterback quandary entering spring practice in 2021.

Day had enjoyed the services of Georgia transfer Justin Fields, who became a standout and the starter in 2019 and ’20. When Fields left for the NFL, the candidates to succeed him, Stroud and Jack Miller, had seen little playing time, partially because the 2020 season was shortened by the pandemic.

Stroud got the nod in 2021, broke school records and became a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist. Miller ended up transferring.

For all his accomplishments, Stroud couldn’t beat hated rival Michigan in two tries, so Day will be looking for someone who can. Despite the Michigan loss, Ohio State backed into the College Football Playoff last season only to lose to eventual national champion Georgia 42-41 in a wild semifinal.

Regardless of who wins the job this time, Ohio State will – as usual – be loaded with elite offensive talent.

“When you see the cast surrounding them, you couldn’t be more excited to be quarterback in college football,” Day said.

Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming will make up one of the best group of receivers in college football.

Veteran running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams both return to share the carries after both battled injuries last season. Tight end Cade Stover, a key receiver for Stroud, also returns.

Offensive line coach Justin Frye will start auditioning potential starters after losing three first-string guys from last year’s team. Victor Cutler, a transfer from Louisiana-Monroe, will immediately be in the mix.

Cornerback was a conspicuous weakness for the Buckeyes last season due partially to injuries. They’ll hope Denzel Burke can play like he did in 2021 when he showed so much promise as a freshman, but other veteran experience is lacking.

“What we’ve got to do now is we’ve got to create competition. We’ve got to open this thing up,” cornerbacks coach Tim Walton said. “Let guys go earn jobs and go play and go compete. That’s what it’s about.”

The Buckeyes will get a first look at Syracuse transfer Ja’Had Carter, who could win a starting job at safety after leading the Orangemen in turnovers last season.

The Buckeyes will have 15 practices, culminating in the annual spring game April 15.

South Carolina gives AD Tanner raise, two-year extension

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner received a two-year contract extension that ties him to the school through June 2026.

Tanner, 64, is a two-time College World Series champion as the Gamecocks’ baseball coach who moved to leading the athletic department in July 2012.

The new deal was approved by the school’s board of trustees Friday and replaces Tanner’s old agreement that was set to expire in June 2024. Tanner will receive a raise of more than $153,000 per season, increasing his total compensation to $1.175 million.

Tanner has had his ups and downs leading the department. He took over when football coach Steve Spurrier was in the middle of three straight 11-2 seasons with players like defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney and receiver Alshon Jeffrey.

Tanner’s hire to replace Spurrier, Will Muschamp, lasted less than five seasons before he was let go in the middle of 2020. Muschamp’s replacement, current coach Shane Beamer, has had back-to-back winning seasons and been to a bowl game his first two yeas.

Tanner has also overseen the rise of women’s basketball under coach Dawn Staley, who signed a seven-year contract before the 2021-22 season worth $22.4 million. Staley and the Gamecocks won the national title last April and are favorites to repeat this season.

Michigan RB Blake Corum says he’ll be back by fall camp

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan All-America running back Blake Corum said his surgically repaired left knee has gotten strong enough that he’s been cleared to run on an anti-gravity treadmill next week.

Corum said that he is “100%” sure he will play in the season-opening game on Sept. 2 against East Carolina

Corum tore a meniscus and sprained a ligament in his left knee against Illinois on Nov. 19. After playing sparingly against Ohio State, he sat out when the Wolverines won the Big Ten title and advanced to the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Instead of entering the NFL draft, Corum decided to stay in school for his senior year.

“Feeling great all-around mentally, physically spiritually,” Corum told The Associated Press.

The 5-foot-8, 210-pound Corum ran for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and had 952 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2021.

“I’ll be back definitely by fall camp,” he said. “I plan on doing everything in the summer workouts, depending on on what doctor says. He told me I shouldn’t be cutting until maybe June. I’m taking my time, but I will be ready by the season.”

Corum will be watching when his teammates face each each other in the Maize and Blue spring game on April 1 at Michigan Stadium.