Bellisari looks to improve

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 12, 2000

The Associated Press

It figures that when a team has a disappointing season, the quarterback will catch much of the blame.

Wednesday, April 12, 2000

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It figures that when a team has a disappointing season, the quarterback will catch much of the blame. Bellisari recognizes that one of the biggest reasons the Buckeyes had to watch the bowl games on TV was because of his on-the-job training.

”That’s part of the game,” the junior-to-be said of the heat he took from media, letters to the editor and callers on talk shows. ”The quarterback deserves it. If you’re not winning ball games, they’ve got to look for somebody and that’s the quarterback.”

There were lots of problems on both sides of the line of scrimmage, but Bellisari seemed to draw most of the fire. Starting the last 10 games, he completed just 45 percent of his passes and had nine interceptions to go with 12 TD passes.

But Chuck Stobart – the receivers coach last year and now the offensive coordinator – said that Bellisari wasn’t the sole reason the Buckeyes seemed lost at times on offense.

”You have to protect, you have to catch and you have to throw,” Stobart said. ”He does one of them. There are two other phases that have be handled.”

During spring workouts, the Buckeyes have tried to shore up their offensive line to protect Bellisari better. They’ve also tried to expand the offense by throwing more to the backs and tight ends and by adding an option attack that they intend to use 10 plays a game.

Still, the biggest improvement might have to be in Bellisari’s head.

”He needs to have a little bit more patience,” Stobart said. ”What we’re trying to emphasize with him is to have patience, just take what they give you and keep moving the chains.”

A year ago, Bellisari was the backup to Austin Moherman in the first two games. Bellisari started the third game and never relinquished the job. Moherman, almost forgotten by the coaching staff, transferred.

With Moherman gone, the job is Bellisari’s. That gives him confidence, but it also must give the coaching staff a queasy feeling since none of the backups – redshirt freshmen Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen and incoming freshman Rick McFadden – has ever been exposed to the speed and violence of a college game.

In due time, they’ll have to grow and learn the same way Bellisari has.

”You go from kindergarten to first grade and from there you go through the ranks and make your way to junior high – that’s what he’s doing,” quarterbacks coach Tim Salem said of Bellisari’s learning curve. ”It’s a process. The process happens a little bit faster for some guys than for others. What he learned last year is showing so far in these days of spring practice.”

Bellisari said he has gained a lot in terms of how to handle the situations a quarterback is presented. Almost as much, he has learned what his responsibilities are. He admitted that he did not take an active role as a leader last year because he didn’t think he had earned it.

”I think I have a little more freedom as to what I can say and how to say it now,” said the native of Boca Raton, Fla.

Bellisari has become more vocal. There isn’t any disputing he’s one of the cornerstones of the Buckeyes’ rebuilding project.

”I had confidence in Steve last year,” said Jonathan Wells, jousting for the starting tailback job. ”Steve’s the leader of the offense. He keeps the huddle going.”

But an older, wiser Bellisari acknowledges he’s not alone out there.

”I’ve been that kind of guy who likes to make plays, to kind of try to be in control,” he said. ”I learned a lot last year. You can’t do it all by yourself.”