Six Questions on the offense

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Last updated: 08/07/2011 6:30 PM
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Football
Six Questions on the Offense that Fall Camp Will Try to Answer
By Tony Gerdeman

The Ohio State Buckeyes will finally begin practicing for the 2011 season this week. Following an offseason that never seemed to end, it's doubtful you would find a more excited group of college students anywhere in the country.

On Monday, the Buckeye football team begins to prepare their own response to every pundit that ever batted a stink-eye at them over the last nine months, but while they're doing that, more importantly, they'll also be clarifying to their coaches where everybody on the team stands.

Fall camp is when the coaches' questions about their team get answered. While we don't necessarily have the answers yet, we do at least have a handful of the questions.

The coaches would love to have the answers before camp starts, but that's a luxury that they're just not going to have this season

1. Will somebody actually win the quarterback job, or will it simply be given to the guy who didn't lose it the most?

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

If the Buckeyes go into the Akron game planning on getting meaningful snaps for three quarterbacks (or more), then you've probably got your answer. If it's just two quarterbacks, then that most likely means that one of the young quarterbacks distanced himself from the other two and now they are competing with Joe Bauserman for the full-time gig. If two of the three young guys are splitting snaps against Akron, then that will tell you that they stepped up and made a legitimate claim for the throne.

2. Can Joe Bauserman be the safe answer that so many have assumed him to be?

Joe Bauserman
Photo by Jim Davidson
Joe Bauserman

Older does not necessarily mean safer. Just think about your grandmother's driving for proof of that. So the notion from around the nation that Joe Bauserman is the "safe pick" simply based on his experience could be out of place here as well. He has about two games' worth of passes under his belt in his career so far, but none of those attempts have come from sustained playing time in single game. Has he even had enough time to show that he can start, or is the time that he has had all the proof to see that he can't? Bauserman had pressure snaps in just one game last season, so how experienced is he really? Against Illinois he came in for an injured Terrelle Pryor and completed both of his passes. His first went to Zach Boren for a one-yard gain on third and nine, and his next went to the Illini's Trulon Henry. Bauserman may have driving experience, but last year he drove the entire way with his turn signal on.

3. There has been much talk about moving Jordan Hall around and incorporating him into the passing game more, but with the early-season loss of Boom Herron, can the Buckeyes afford to "lose" their top two returning running backs?

Jordan Hall
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall

Despite what some Buckeye fans may think, it's going to be tough to replace Boom Herron for the first five weeks of the schedule. Yes, this is a talented stable of running backs, but none have had to be consistent and reliable yet. Mikell Leshoure and Denard Robinson were the only two players who rushed for more yards in conference play last year than Herron, and Herron had a better average and more touchdowns than both. Now the talk has been about moving Jordan Hall to various spots on offense because of the depth at tailback and lack of depth at receiver. More running backs need to carry the ball, but the best running backs need to carry it the most. If Jordan Hall is one of the best running backs, then there are easier ways of getting him the ball than by putting him in the slot. While everybody has taken the story of Hall's move and run with it, whenever the story gets back to one of his Buckeye teammates, they all say the same thing: Jordan Hall will carry the football. As John Cooper used to say, you don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul, and in this analogy, running backs coach Dick Tressel is Peter.

4. Is there consistency in the receiving corps?

Of the six questions being addressed here today, this is probably the question with the $64,000 price tag. There is no doubt that there is potential in this group, and talent as well. However, the most important talent for a receiver is his ability to catch the ball. When that's one of the major concerns for a receiving corps, then exactly how talented can they be? All of the question marks in this group will be given ample opportunities to provide answers throughout fall camp. There will be no grading on a curve during these tests, however.

5. Can Jake Stoneburner be the weapon that people have wanted him to be since the day he arrived at Ohio State?

Jake Stoneburner
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jake Stoneburner

Back when he was a 6'5" 220-pound wide receiver in high school, Buckeye fans have envisioned the various mismatches that Jake Stoneburner's frame would pose against smaller defensive backs. Having been a tight end for a few years now, those same fans are still hoping to see those receiver skills fully put to use, but this time against linebackers and safeties. Given the youth at receiver and quarterback, this would seem to be the perfect storm of circumstances to see that Stoneburner catches the 40-50 passes that everybody believes he can. Fall camp will allow the quarterbacks to build a relationship with him that should carry over into the season.

6. Yes there is versatility on the offensive line, but does that mean  players will have a hard time finding a long-term home in which to thrive?

Andrew Norwell
Photo by Jim Davidson
Andrew Norwell

Jack Mewhort can play all five offensive line positions when called upon. Marcus Hall can play either tackle spot and either guard spot, as can Andrew Norwell. But can any of the three play just one position outstandingly? Coaches like to say that "in a pinch", this player or that player can play another position, but what about when there are no pinches? Where can they play then? Each of the three players above will need to be given enough time at their eventual position so that they can grow into it and make it their own. Versatility is nice, but eventually you have to settle in somewhere or else you'll never get completely comfortable.

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