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Whicker: Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud leaves ‘boring’ football behind, makes a splash in Big Ten

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LOS ANGELES — Out of the mouths of redshirt freshmen comes the truth.

You’re wondering why California quarterbacks want to play football elsewhere? Ask C.J. Stroud.

“You go to USC and UCLA games and, quite honestly, it’s kind of boring,” Stroud said on Wednesday. “There’s not a lot of people. The parents really aren’t in tune with what’s going on. They’re just there, like it’s vacation.

“Other places, the parents are more like fanatics. They’re wearing all kinds of team stuff. You just want that type of support.”

Stroud is from Rancho Cucamonga and plays at Ohio State, just as Cameron Rising is from Newbury Park and plays at Utah. They meet each other in the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young is from Pasadena, via Mater Dei, and plays in the College Football Playoff semifinal for Alabama on Friday.

In the season opener, J.T. Daniels (Mater Dei) quarterbacked Georgia against Clemson, which had D.J. Uiagalelei (St. John Bosco).

Then there’s Brandon Burmeister going from La Jolla to Virginia Tech, and Matt Corral from Ventura to Mississippi.

This is not entirely new, nor unusual. Of the top eight quarterbacks from Texas in the power conferences, only one of them actually plays for a school in Texas. And it’s true that Los Alamitos QB Malachi Nelson had committed to Oklahoma because of the elevated competition. Then he pulled a U-turn when Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley came to USC.

But Stroud is one of the few who articulated the obvious. Although he included USC among his final five schools, his heart was already three hours ahead.

“The schools in this area didn’t recruit me until late,” Stroud said. “I thought, well, I’ve got to go somewhere else. Ohio State showed me love from the beginning.

“I’ll never be somebody’s second choice.”

Buckeye love was conditional, as Stroud learned in his first start. Minnesota led the Buckeyes, 14-10, at halftime. As the accumulated grumbles shook the earth, Stroud threw four touchdowns in the second half and Ohio State won, 45-31.

In the next game, Stroud threw for 484 yards, but Ohio State lost at home to Oregon, 35-28.

In the regular-season finale Stroud piled up 394 yards, but Ohio State lost at Michigan, 42-27, and missed out on the College Football Playoff.

In between the Buckeyes were rolling thunder. Stroud had 38 touchdown passes and five interceptions. He got invited to Young’s Heisman ceremony and finished fourth in the balloting.

“It was a blessing to get invited, but I wasn’t happy with being fourth,” he said. “In my mind, it wasn’t fair. Who wants to see somebody just accept fourth place? I’m not going to be all jolly-happy with something like that. Bryce deserved it, but it might be something that motivates me the rest of my life.”

Maybe that’s part of the appeal of full-house football. When the options are down to perfection or else, there’s little need for diplomacy.

“I’ve got my voice and I’m going to use that voice,” Stroud said.

Coleridge Bernard Stroud IV was the kid who asked his coach to post the tape of that day’s practice. He got to 6-foot-3 early, got all the working parts moving in the right direction, also played basketball, and knew he’d get a scholarship somewhere.

Then he went to The Opening camp in Frisco, Texas, a three-star, uncommitted recruit who was ranked the 25th best dropback quarterback in the land. He beat everyone, including Young, for the event’s MVP award.

“That’s when I got to know something about Ohio State,” Stroud said. “Julian Fleming and Gee Scott had already committed, and they started recruiting me.”

Stroud was named the Buckeyes’ starter on Aug. 21. They are ranked No. 7 and are 10-2. They solemnly promise to do better next time.

“We’re not where we wanted to be, but we’re somewhere,” Stroud said. “We don’t want to go out with two bad tastes in our mouth.”

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Such a record didn’t save Stroud from the ultimately harmless Twitter tsunamis. It also didn’t protect him from face-to-face opinions.

“Through the bad and the good you have to have an even keel,” Stroud said. “It’s a game. It’s not life and death. Well, for us it might be because it’s our livelihood. But some people fail to realize that it’s just a game. Sometimes they come up and ask me why I did this or that. I just say, do you think I meant to do that?

“It’s OK. If you want a lot of fans to support you, you have to realize that sometimes they’ll be hating on you as well.”

Stroud shrugged. At least it’s not boring.

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