Practice Report - QB Battle Taking Shape

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Last updated: 08/17/2011 1:16 AM

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Football
Ohio State Practice Insider: QB Battle Taking Shape
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s always interesting to see how players respond when the pads finally go on and practices turn live during fall camp.

Some players—Terrelle Pryor was a great example—don’t seem to have the same spark until defensive linemen are flying past them at 100 miles per hour. Other times players will peak at the start of camp only to fade when the real football starts.

Although they have been in full pads since last Friday, Tuesday’s practice was the first “live” day open to the media. Technically, it wasn’t really “live” because there weren’t many takedowns—players were playing through contact, but not tackling—but it was clear how much had changed since the first week in shorts.

For starters, the Buckeyes seem to be narrowing in on a true quarterback battle between senior Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller. After splitting reps evenly with all four quarterbacks last week, Bauserman and Miller took about 80-85 percent of the snaps with the first-team offense Tuesday (Bauserman was probably 50 percent and Miller the other 35 percent).

Sophomore Kenny Guiton seems to be hanging around (he took maybe 10 percent of the snaps with the first-team offense), but redshirt freshman Taylor Graham has all but faded to the background as Ohio State moves full steam ahead towards the season-opener against Akron.

Bauserman’s Best Day?

Joe Bauserman
Photo by Jim Davidson
Joe Bauserman

Those hoping to see Joe Bauserman fall out of the quarterback race this fall could be waiting a while. After struggling with inconsistency last week, Bauserman may have had his best practice at Ohio State Tuesday; at least of the ones that have been open to the media.

Whether it was just a good day or the fact his focus has been sharpened by the narrowing of the quarterback battle, Bauserman seemed to have a newfound confidence in the huddle. He threw the ball with an authority we haven’t seen out of him before and wasn’t afraid to fit it into tight spaces with some real zip.

It was the kind of practice you want to see from a guy who has supposedly been waiting his time for this opportunity to be the starting quarterback at Ohio State. Bauserman did have a couple of throwaways when he was forced out of the pocket, but it was good to see some gusto out of the senior signal caller.

The Braxton Watch

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

If Bauserman was the best of the OSU quarterbacks Tuesday—and he most certainly was—then Braxton Miller was right on his heels. He doesn’t yet have the knowledge to support his immeasurable talent—if he did we might not be talking about a battle—but Miller is getting more comfortable by the day.

After looking a little apprehensive last week at the start of fall camp, Miller showed good command Tuesday and had the look of a guy who was taking his game to the next level now that the pads are on.

Miller still holds the ball a little longer than the coaches would probably like, but he did a much better job of checking down to his running backs and tight ends Tuesday. That’s a good thing because this team is loaded with more pass-catching talent at those two positions than they have been in a long time.

The best of the day actually came from Miller and it was fullback Zach Boren on the receiving end. Miller sold his play-action fake on the inside handoff and then hit Boren 20 yards downfield on a beautiful seam route. Miller got the ball off quick and snapped it off with such velocity that only one guy stood between Boren and the end zone.

Missing Pieces

The offense was a little hampered Tuesday by the absences of two key players. The first was receiver DeVier Posey, who spent the day helping Stan Drayton coach the young wideouts. The other was tight end Reid Fragel, who is still trying to put his staph infection in the rearview mirror.

Fragel left practice last week with soreness in his knee and had to have another minor procedure, but he is expecting to return sometime this week. With Fragel out, freshman Jeff Heuerman continues to impress with the first and second groups. Fellow freshman Nick Vannett was also more noticeable today, but it’s clear the veterans are expecting big things out of Heuerman this season.

Red Zone Blues

For as good as the quarterbacks looked the rest of the day, they struggled mightily when pressure was on in the red zone. The Buckeyes went fully live (except the quarterbacks) for one small portion of practice where they put the ball at the 25-yard line and gave each group a chance to score.

Bauserman was up with the first group but all three drives ended with an interception by the defense. In Bauserman’s defense, Philly Brown slipped at the goal line and his pass went right into the arms of cornerback Bradley Roby.

Miller was the next one up with the second group, but his pass sailed over the head of freshman Devin Smith and into the arms of defensive back Christian Bryant. The drill ended when Kenny Guiton’s pass was tipped at the line by freshman Kenny Hayes and intercepted by a diving Adam Griffin.

Dark Horse No More?

Verlon Reed
Photo by Jim Davidson

Verlon Reed may have changed his Twitter name after former OSU head coach Jim Tressel called him a ‘dark horse’ candidate in the spring, but there has been nothing sneaky about Reed’s play this fall.

The redshirt freshman out of Marion Franklin has turned his strong spring into an even better fall showing. With DeVier Posey set to miss the first five games, Reed has moved into the starting lineup alongside Corey “Philly” Brown. He also continues to outplay nearly every other receiver on the roster.

After a good first week of practice, Reed continued his strong play Tuesday with a number of nice grabs. The former high school quarterback is big and strong for a player with his explosiveness and he catches everything in his vicinity.

With T.Y. Williams struggling, Reed gives Ohio State the big, physical receiver they need to compliment guys like Brown and Chris Fields while Posey is out.

1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back

With Reed playing so well this fall, it only makes sense that the gap is widening at the split end position while Posey is out and T.Y. Williams certainly isn’t doing much to slow it down either.

Just when it looked like Williams was having a solid day catching the ball, he strung together a series of drops that continues to leave us scratching our heads. It makes sense why Williams would struggle to catch the ball in traffic—like Stan Drayton said—because his arms are so long. As soon as the ball hits his hands, defenders around him are swiping at it to knock it loose.

The quarterbacks could do a lot to fix that if they would start throwing the ball up where only Williams can get to it, but he needs something to boost his confidence right now.

Lining Up

There were a few changes to the offensive line from last week, but not with the first group. Freshman Tommy Brown moved up to the second group at guard and Chris Carter slid over from left tackle to take his spot at right tackle with the third group.

1st Team: LT Norwell, LG Mewhort, C Brewster, RG Hall, RT Shugarts

2nd Team: LT Adams, LG Tommy Brown, C Bobek, RG Linsley, RT Underwood

3rd Team: LT Eric Kramer, LG Ben St. John, C Trummer, RG Blackman, RT Chris Carter

Defensive practice report by Tony Gerdeman

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