Battle starts to fill Ohio State quarterback job

Published 2:48 am Friday, August 12, 2011

COLUMBUS (AP) — There are tall ones, fast ones, strong-armed ones, an old one and a young one. Ohio State’s stable of quarterbacks includes everything but an experienced one.

After Terrelle Pryor gave up his final year of eligibility this summer, the Buckeyes were left with four candidates to take over his job. They range from a wily 25-year-old veteran to an acclaimed freshman just learning the playbook, from the lanky son of a former NFL and Ohio State quarterback to an almost overlooked add-on who has surprised many.

Interim coach Luke Fickell says all will get a chance to prove what they can do, but the clock is ticking on winnowing the list down soon as the days melt away before the Sept. 3 opener against Akron.

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“We’re trying to evaluate them as a whole, see what they do,” he said of process during this week’s first Buckeyes’ practices. “(See) what our program needs, what our offense needs, and then figure out who’s the best fit for what we do.”

Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller battled it out for practice time during the spring while Pryor mended after surgery. When Pryor, a central figure in Ohio State’s ongoing problems with the NCAA, announced he was going to quit college and try to make it in the NFL, an important decision became a make-or-break decision.

“They’ve been competing their butts off,” quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said. “They know what’s on the line and they’re coming out there to work every day.”

Bauserman, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound fifth-year senior, has seen action in 24 games the last three years after coming to Ohio State when his minor-league baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates wilted.

Still, he’s only thrown 47 passes, completing 25, for 320 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

He said the coaches are looking for the same thing from the quarterbacks that they are from the entire team.

“Just to be consistent,” he said. “No turnovers and be tough.”

Bauserman, from Strasburg, Va., isn’t the most mobile or the best thrower or the smartest or the most athletic. But he’s not last in any of those categories.

“Joe’s a competitive guy,” Fickell said. “Joe can do pretty much most of it. He can move, he’s decently athletic and he can stand back there at times, too.”

Guiton only saw time in five games a year ago, throwing an interception and completing a pass for a 5-yard gain in his only two attempts. He did gain 21 yards on just five rushes, though.

With decent size at 6-2, 195, the redshirt sophomore from Houston was almost an afterthought as a recruit three years ago after Ohio State was unable to sign another highly touted prospect.

He believes it is his versatility which makes him the best man for the job.

“I feel like I’m a dual threat,” he said. “I can bring many things to the table and that’s what I’ll try to show.”

Siciliano likes his off-the-field attributes.

“He’s got great leadership and great communication,” he said. “And he’s shown he’s a tough kid.”

Graham is the son of former Ohio State quarterback Kent Graham, who spent 11 years in the NFL with six teams from 1992-2002. A redshirt freshman, the 6-4, 225-pounder from Wheaton, Ill., looks the part of a pocket passer. He’s got the quick release of his father and appears to have the best arm of the quartet.

“Of course I’d love to start,” he said. “Every guy here would, all the quarterbacks. There’s no denying that. That’s why we came here. That’s what I look forward to.”

Fickell mentioned that Graham isn’t as mobile as the other three, but believes his size can be an advantage. He also said it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out when Graham is tested during August practices.

“We have the opportunity to see how he does in situations where his strengths are,” he said.

Miller is a blue-chip recruit out of suburban Dayton, Ohio, who graduated early so he could enroll at Ohio State in January and play spring ball. Big but with speed at 6-3 and 210, he’s still trying to learn the playbook while impressing the coaches.

His position coach has kept a watchful eye on him.

“He’s very mechanically sound,” Siciliano said. “He doesn’t have many flaws in his throwing motion, so he’s been fine so far.”

Miller tries to learn four plays every day. He studies them back at the team hotel, then tries to show his knowledge on the field. The next day, he adds four more plays.

“I just take everything in like a sponge,” he said.

Fickell said he wouldn’t have a problem starting a true freshman because none of the four have a lot of experience.

“They’re all young in their own way, meaning they haven’t taken a whole lot of snaps in front of 106,000,” he said. “So, to me, it’s most important who fits what our team does best and who can jell into that. Obviously, we have to do what they do well. But it’s important that they can do what our team does well too.”