Fickell Breaks Down Quarterback Battle
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State Head Coach Luke Fickell is by trade a defensive mind.
Asking him about the nuances of the quarterback position a year ago would have been like asking Woody Hayes about the art of throwing a curveball.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The 37-year old coach was a state wrestling champion at Columbus DeSales and then a four-year starter at nose guard for the Buckeyes. After an injury derailed his playing career, he became a defensive line coach at Akron and eventually the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
Suddenly, however, he will be the one making one of the biggest decisions in recent OSU history if one of the team’s four quarterbacks cannot separate from the pack over the next three weeks.
“I think there’s always going to be someone that, when there is some indecision, that has to be able make the call,” Fickell said Thursday after practice.
“I think we’ll get to that. Sometimes it’s not as close as people think.”
Right now, the Buckeyes are rotating all four quarterbacks as if everything is still even across the board, although center Michael Brewster said he feels like he has been taking more snaps with Joe Bauserman.
Photo by Dan Harker
“Joe’s a combination. Joe’s a competitive guy. Joe gives you an opportunity that you can do pretty much most of it,” Fickell said of the senior gunslinger.
“He can move, he’s decently athletic and he can stand back there at times too.”
Having backed up Terrelle Pryor for the past two seasons, Bauserman should have the best grasp of the offense. He also has had more time to work with the receivers, but that doesn’t mean he’s experienced.
Bauserman has thrown a total of 47 passes in his collegiate career, including a career-high 22 last season.
“They’re all young in their own way, meaning they haven’t taken a whole lot of snaps in front of 106,000,” Fickell said of the quarterbacks.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“To me, it’s most important (to find) who fits what our team does best and who can gel into that. Obviously we have to do what they do well, but it’s important that they can do what our team does well.”
That probably doesn’t bode tremendously well for Taylor Graham, who is more of an air-it-out quarterback with a strong arm and limited mobility.
“You have guys who are bigger and maybe not as mobile in Taylor, who have to have the opportunity to see how he does in situations where his strengths are,” Fickell said of the redshirt freshman from Illinois.
Redshirt sophomore Kenny Guiton may have had the best day during Thursday’s practice, but Fickell admitted that he was anxious to see what would happen once the full pads went on Friday.
“Maybe Braxton (Miller) is a guy who moves a little bit more,” he said of the true freshman out of Wayne.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It’s hard sometimes to even see his strengths, some of his best qualities, when you can’t tackle and you’re not in pads and that guy isn’t live.”
Much like Pryor, Miller is a scrambler first and a passer second, but his throwing abilities would appear to be significantly ahead of where Pryor’s were three years ago. Strictly in terms of talent, he might be the best fit for what the Buckeyes need this fall, especially without seniors Boom Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams for the first five games.
The problem for Miller has been his understanding of the offense, which could prevent him from overtaking the veterans by the time Ohio State opens the 2011 season on Sept. 3 against Akron.
“We’re trying to evaluate them as a whole to see what they do, what our program needs, and what our offense needs,” Fickell said pointedly.
“And then figure out who’s the best fit for what we do.”
Fickell’s first big decision as the head coach might be a tough one. So far, the four quarterbacks aren’t making it easy. After 15 practices in the spring and four more this fall, none of the competitors has stepped forward to claim the job.
If and when the time comes where Fickell does have to make a tough decision, he won’t be alone.
“I think the biggest thing is who communicates with them and are they all on the same page as opposed to who really makes the call,” Fickell said of his staff.
“We all want the same result.”
Just win, baby.
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