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Will Texans’ C.J. Stroud be the first Ohio State QB in a Pro Bowl?

HOUSTON — Since the common draft era in 1967, there have been 817 quarterbacks drafted. One hundred eight of those made the Pro Bowl.

Some have come from traditional powerhouses like Notre Dame and Michigan, and some have come from schools like North Dakota State and Wyoming.

But perennial powerhouse Ohio State has the second-most wins in college football history and has yet to have a quarterback become a Pro Bowler.

But through the first nine games of rookie C.J. Stroud‘s career with the Houston Texans, he is building a case to become the first Buckeye signal-caller to do so — and maybe even contend for the MVP.

Stroud leads the league in passing yards per game (291.8) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (15 to 2), and his 15 scores are four behind leaders Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa. He also broke the record for most pass attempts to start a career without an interception (186).

On Sunday, the Texans snapped the Cincinnati Bengals‘ four-game winning streak with a 30-27 victory, as Stroud led a winning drive for the second straight week and became the third rookie to throw for 350 yards — Cam Newton (2011) and Andrew Luck (2012) are the others — with 356 passing yards.

That came one week after Stroud set the single-season record for most passing yards (470) for a rookie in a 39-37 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His 826 passing yards over his past two games is the second most by an NFL rookie over a two-game span, trailing only Newton’s 854 yards in 2011.

Stroud is a big reason the Texans are 5-4, marking the latest in a season they’ve been over .500 since the end of 2019. Houston has a 58.4% chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, after entering the season at 15%.

Stroud is aware of the narrative about Ohio State quarterbacks, but it doesn’t bother him, and he wants to dispel any doubts.

“Stories have been written about Ohio State quarterbacks that aren’t necessarily true, and for me, that’s fine,” Stroud said. “It’s my job to go out there and prove that wrong and try to prove that we’re getting prepared the right way at Ohio State.”

OHIO STATE HAS had 14 quarterbacks drafted in the common draft era, and four have gone in the first round: Art Schlichter (No. 4, 1982), the late Dwayne Haskins (No. 15, 2019), Justin Fields (No. 11, 2021) and Stroud.

There have been later-round picks like Cardale Jones and Troy Smith, who had decorated college careers but got few opportunities in the NFL.

There’s also Joe Burrow — the No. 1 pick in 2020. Burrow redshirted at Ohio State in 2015, played in five games as J.T. Barrett’s backup in 2016 and then broke a bone in his throwing hand before the start of the 2017 season. The next spring, he battled Haskins for the starting job, with Haskins winning out.

In May 2018, Burrow transferred to LSU, where he led an undefeated Tigers team to a national championship in the 2019 season, but because he went from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the NFL, he is not considered as an OSU draft pick.

The only player from Ohio State to start over 40 games in the NFL is Mike Tomczak, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears in 1985 and started 73 games for the Bears, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers in 15 seasons.

Overall, Ohio State quarterbacks in the NFL have a 91-128-1 record, and Fields, who has a career record of 7-26, is the only other active starter.

Texans coach DeMeco Ryans didn’t allow the record or narrative to sway him when evaluating Stroud ahead of the April draft when they made him the No. 2 overall pick.

“Every player is different. … You get quarterbacks that come from all over the place. It’s not about one school,” Ryans told ESPN. “They talked about Alabama quarterbacks for a long time, and now it’s like one comes out every year.

“It is more about that player and that person than it is about pinpointing a school.”

Jones, who played one game in the NFL, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 after helping Ohio State win a national championship in 2014. He believes Ohio State quarterbacks shouldn’t get lumped together.

“A lot of factors play into a guy having success at the next level,” Jones told ESPN. “I can go on about situations and scenarios that I will argue guys wouldn’t be those guys without being in the right situations. Russell Wilson is one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time. But when you look at a guy like Russ, [he] came into the league at the perfect time and perfect situation in Seattle. He beat two veteran quarterbacks his rookie year out because that system fit him better.”

Smith won the Heisman in 2006 and was drafted in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2007. He went 1-1 as a rookie when he started the final two games and was 4-4 in his four-year career after going 3-3 with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. He finished his career passing for 1,734 and eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

Smith doesn’t believe he was ready for the NFL because of how Ohio State ran its offense under coach Jim Tressel and how often it threw the ball, as Smith was eighth in touchdown passes his Heisman year (30), compared to joining the Ravens who were 11th in rushing attempts per game in 2007 (27.9).

“[Ohio State] didn’t [prepare me] because back then, we were trendsetting. We came out and threw the ball all over the field,” Smith told ESPN. “When I got to the NFL with Baltimore, it was more of a run-first team.”

In 2008, the Ravens intended to start Smith and sit Joe Flacco for his rookie season, but after Smith got a severe case of tonsillitis in the middle of the preseason and Kyle Boller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, Flacco started the regular season and didn’t miss a game for the rest of Smith’s tenure.

Despite his take on where he was development-wise when he left Columbus, Ohio, for the NFL, he believed things were different for Stroud.

“[Stroud’s] preparation is top notch. It’s the elite of the league,” Smith said. “I’m seeing a quarterback that no matter what the situation is, [it’s not] frightening, threatening or big to him. It’s almost like he’s been there before.”

From an NFL evaluator’s perspective, scouts have taken different approaches to how they see Buckeye quarterbacks, but they know every individual and situation is different.

“People blame Ohio State, but the truth is most college quarterbacks can’t process it well enough,” an NFL scout told ESPN. “[Ohio State quarterbacks] just happen to have Heisman candidates most years. The truth is, if you can process, you can play in the league. The guys before Stroud didn’t struggle because of Ohio State.”

OHIO STATE COACH Ryan Day, who guided Stroud (2020 to 2022), was a quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 and for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 before joining Ohio State in 2017 as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

The NFL taught Day pro concepts that he incorporated into Ohio State’s offense. Day was named acting head coach in 2018 for the Buckeyes’ first three games (where he went 3-0) when Urban Meyer was placed on administrative leave. He took over the program after the Rose Bowl that season.

“When I came in seven years ago to coach the quarterbacks, I wanted to make it the best position in America,” Day told ESPN. “We work hard to teach the guys protections and defensive structures and route structures and to teach them like they were in the NFL.”

In two seasons as a starter at Ohio State, Stroud finished with 8,123 passing yards and 85 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions. Even though the Buckeyes fell in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Eve, Stroud threw for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 42-41 loss to Georgia that came down to the last minute in his final college game.

“C.J. has a special ability to see the field,” Day said. “He has a great feel for the pocket when the pocket is breaking down. He didn’t have a great offensive line when he was in high school. So he had to improvise or figure it out and adapt. And he did that. He’s very intelligent. And he’s extremely accurate.”

Stroud’s development is part of why the Texans (5-4) are only one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South with the Arizona Cardinals (2-8) coming to town Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

“I was well-prepared coming from Ohio State,” Stroud said. “It’s a special place. “I feel like Ohio State is a mini NFL team — the attention that we get, the fan base that we have, all the critics that we get — things like that. It definitely helped me a lot.”

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