ATLANTA — As much as Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud tried to avoid the negativity on social media and elsewhere after his loss to Michigan last month, it was inevitable.
Stroud said on Thursday’s media day as the Buckeyes prepared for the College Football Playoffs semifinals game at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, “I don’t really look it, but people have the audacity to call me and tell me what the people say . So I hear it and it is what it is. It comes with the nature of the animal. You can’t accept the good and you can’t accept the bad.
This isn’t the first time Stroud has drawn the ire of fans and others on social media over issues with the Buckeyes. A quick search going back to the start of last season reveals tweets expressing anger specifically aimed at Stroud.
They strengthened after the 45-23 loss to Michigan because it didn’t just look like Ohio State had lost its chance to play a national championship. Stroud had also lost to Michigan twice. In the game, Stroud threw for 349 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Last month Stroud said “people wouldn’t be proud if everyone in the world could see” what was being said about him.
Understand his teammates. Several players told ESPN.com Thursday they either saw hateful messages addressed to themselves and their teammates or stopped checking social media altogether in the days after the game.
“As an 18-22 year old, social media is a big part of our lives so it’s quite difficult to stay away from it, so I’ve definitely seen some of the comments and that could be frustrating,” Tanner McCalister said. “People will comment on your DMs and say all sorts of things. I try not to look at that.
“When you play college football, these things come, especially when you’re at that level. So you have to expect that. I’m not saying it’s right. It’s not right at all. But I mean you expect it and push it aside and keep chasing your dreams and do what you have to do to help your team win games.
Pointing out that some of his teammates had just turned 18, cornerback Cam Brown believed some perspective was in order.
“People talk bad about people, they don’t understand that we’re young,” Brown said. “Adults talk crazy about kids because something didn’t go right. We’ve tried not to look at our phones because it makes us think badly of people we don’t want.”
Defensive end Zach Harrison said coach Ryan Day has done a good job digging into what’s out there on social media so he can be honest and open about what’s being said about them.
“Anything we see, he probably sees 10 times,” Harrison said. “It made us stronger and brought us closer together. As long as we stay together, we’ll be fine.”
“I think one of the things about social media, or anything in general, is that you have to stay put and know who you are as a person and as a player, and that’s important to CJ,” said Corey Dennis, quarterbacks coach of the State of Ohio . “It’s been a tough week and then all of a sudden you get into the playoffs and you realize we’re back in it. You leave this game behind and move forward.”
Indeed, Stroud has garnered praise from his coaches and teammates, who cite his resilience and leadership qualities during his time with the Buckeyes – but especially now that they have their long-awaited opportunity to compete for a national championship.
“If you look at the tape, I think I’ve really tried to do whatever it takes to win games in my career and if that means I haven’t made it, that’s what it is,” said Stroud. “Everyone has the right to their opinion. I’ll keep going and learn from it. I really thank God for giving him a second chance and I think we deserve to be here regardless of what happened that day. But we did keep going. Our focus now is on Georgia. I’m just taking it as a lesson and trying to learn from it.”