Media Day Top Ten: CJ Stroud, Cade McNamara have chips on their shoulders

By Laken Litman
Writer Football Sports FOX

INDIANAPOLIS — A year ago, CJ Stroud haven’t even issued a college permit, let alone given a name Ohio Statestarting quarterback.

Then he became a Heisman Trophy finalist, leading Ohio State to the Rose Bowl and leading the nation’s best strike as a freshman. Buckeyes was ranked No. 1 in total fouls (561.5 yards per game) and scored a foul (45.7 PPG) last year, and Stroud went 4,435 yards with 44 goals to just six interceptions. He ranks second nationally in the passer-by efficiency rating (186.6) and breaks 17 program records.

However, since fall camp is due to start next week, Stroud says he doesn’t really think he made it last year.

“I don’t think I’ve done much,” he said this week in the Big Ten media days. “I feel like I’m barely touching my potential. I feel like I could do more… There’s always room for improvement. I look at Tom Brady and his mindset. He comes back every year with something to prove he has to do. better.

“And I respect that because, I mean, it’s a fight. It’s a challenge every day. It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to get up. appreciate it, but I don’t need it. I don’t blame myself. I think I’m my biggest critic.”

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Stroud, just 20 years old, was very comfortable and relaxed in his first days as a media. He spoke with reporters for an hour, joking about the NCAA Football video game ratings and talking about his passion for cooking. His mother taught him how to cook when he was young, and he enjoys preparing soul food dinners for his teammates at least once a week. His favorites are mac ‘n’ cheese, fried chicken and waffles.

While Stroud’s remarks about not achieving much last year sparked many follow-up questions — almost as much as “What’s in that mac ‘n’ cheese recipe?” — Coach Ryan Day says he’s not surprised by such comments.

“That’s how he is,” Day said. “He’s very excited. He really wanted it. He’s very competitive, but he’s a very good leader. I think in the off-season, he realized that it needed everyone. [to win], and that comes with maturity. And he does an excellent job of it.

“But to say he achieved nothing last year – that’s not accurate. But that’s his approach, and I think that’s what makes him great. And I respect that about him. He did a lot of great things last year, but I think his best football. the ball is in front of him.”

Stroud later clarified that he didn’t feel the need to prove anything. But he wants to show more than what he can do, like run the ball, especially as his mates from home gave him a tough time running for minus-20 yards last season. He also mentioned improving his game management skills.

Even so, Day said Stroud “really has the upper hand” this off-season and even led the team.

“He always had a voice,” Day said. “Once you go out on the pitch and you show credibility that you can do it, you walk a little differently, and people see you through a different lens. I think that’s the problem.

“I think when you’re young, and you’re into a season, and you haven’t played, you’re just trying to figure out how to finish that first pass, get that first win, and you’re very focused. on your work and perhaps the offence.”

Michigan QB Situation

Jim Harbaugh wants you to play his quarterback battle mind game and question what you think you know about who will start in Michigan on Week 1 against Colorado State.

Last year, Cade McNamara led Michigan to victory over Ohio State, the Top Ten title and the College Football Playoffs. But he entered his senior season with added pressure to prove why he should keep his job. That’s because sophomore JJ McCarthy, a former five-star candidate recovering from a shoulder injury, was widely thought to have overtaken McNamara as a freshman, but that wasn’t the case.

While she may be annoyed by the constant questions and the fact that she hasn’t officially locked down her position yet, McNamara matures in answering questions on the topic in media days.

“I think no matter what position you are in, if you become complacent, you become vulnerable,” he said. “I think overall, this whole situation really helped me in the sense that I wasn’t complacent about what my situation was and where I was on the depth chart. If anything, I got better and faster than I was just sitting in the quarterback room. comfortably.”

Meanwhile, Harbaugh made things even more confusing.

“Cade McNamara will be very hard to beat for the starting quarterback position,” he said. “JJ McCarthy will be very hard to beat for an early quarterback job.”

This sparked further questions about how McNamara responded to entering fall camp without being told he was a starter.

“Who said he didn’t start the fall camp?” said Harbaugh. “I’m not saying he’s not a starter.”

So he?

“Yeah, Cade was a starting quarterback,” said Harbaugh. “When we line up, first practice, he will be with the first team. Now, finally during the training camp, JJ will get the same opportunity as Cade. They will both get a lot of reps, and there will be a lot of reps. It’s time for them to have competition. that and determine who the starting quarterback is for the first game.”

Harbaugh hopes the quarterback fight will be “competitive, not aggressive” and sets the criteria that will determine who wins. This includes which quarterback can lead the team to the end zone. Harbaugh noted several times that McNamara did this on more than 50% of his drives last season.

Keeping the football and limiting turnover, playmaking ability and who performs best in the game of passing are also things he is researching.

“Put the ball out there on August 3rd, and they’ll do it,” said Harbaugh.

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What are the College Football Playoffs like?

Perhaps the talk of expansion in college football will never end.

The subject, relating to conference realignment and the College Football Playoffs, has been at the center of attention at every conference media day extravaganza this month. These include the Top Ten, which joined Pac-12 and the ACC last year in voting against the 12-team model after months of discussions. Now, having gotten stronger with the addition of USC and UCLA coming in 2024, commissioner Kevin Warren is more bullish.

“I am 100 per cent in favor of the expansion of the College Football Playoffs,” Warren said. “What’s the correct number? We’ll find out. I’m sure we’ll complete the expansion of the College Football Playoffs.”

The current four-team format ends when the CFP deal expires at the end of the 2025-26 season, meaning there is plenty of time for the commissioner to come up with a new plan. Different ideas have been kicked in, including 12 and 16 team proposals.

Of course, the latter gives more access, more games and more money. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told ESPN during the media conference days last week that “he’s heard an increase in chatter about 16 teams being a point of discussion.”

Although, as Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald points out, it’s hard to hold actual playoff expansion discussions if you don’t know what the conference will be like.

“If we have Power 5, we can do it that way, but if we have Power 4, Power 3 or Power 2, it changes the landscape,” he said. “I won’t give an opinion until I know what landscape we’re talking about. So let’s find out, so we can move on.

“I’m glad we’re at this conference.”

That last piece is the general sentiment of most of this week’s Top Ten coaches, who joke about how happy they are to be at this conference at a time like this.

Warren wanted the Top Ten to lead in all aspects of change in college athletics. He wanted his conference to “change and be transformative.” And he wanted to make a decision that, “when we look back 30 years from now, people will say that the Big Ten Conference was ahead of the curve in making this decision.”

An early example was that once USC and UCLA became members, the Top Ten would be present coast to coast and in the country’s three largest markets: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

“You’d wake up to Big Ten football and go to bed to Big Ten football,” Fitzgerald joked.

Warren vowed to be brave and aggressive in the face of many of the problems facing college sports, including realignment and expansion. Can the Top Ten add more schools? He said such potential steps and future decisions “will be taken for the right reasons at the right time.”

“It’s important for all of us in business to recognize that we are in a time of change,” Warren added. “I think there are two types of people in the world: They see change as a problem, or they see change as an opportunity. I’m one of those people who, when change happens, I’m excited about it. It’s an opportunity for us to do a lot of great things. people have thought about it but may be a little reluctant to do so.

“So I accepted the change.”

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered college football, college basketball, the US Women’s National Soccer Team and the Olympics in Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. Her first book, written in partnership with Rizzoli and Sports Illustrated and titled “Strong Like a Woman,” was published in the spring of 2022 marking Title IX’s 50th anniversary.

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Media Day Top Ten: CJ Stroud, Cade McNamara have chips on their shoulders

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