Fickell: QB Battle ‘Wide Open’
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Luke Fickell doesn’t know who his starting quarterback will be in 2011, but he knows it will not be Terrelle Pryor.
After nearly three full years as the starter in Columbus, Pryor made his clamorous exit earlier this month after a tidal wave of allegations began to rise up around him and the Ohio State football team.
While some fans—possibly even the new head coach—were happy to see him leave, Pryor’s absence leaves a vast cavern in the OSU offense. Far from the perfect quarterback, Pryor almost always found a way to put the Buckeyes in position to win games, either with his arm or his legs.
The Buckeyes have four players vying to replace Pryor under center this fall, including senior Joe Bauserman. Fickell isn’t ready to give the edge to him or anyone else.
“I think it’s completely wide open,” Fickell said earlier this week.
“I think Joe and I understand that. He understands that. We’re going to have the opportunity when the fall comes to make sure everyone knows what’s expected and then we’re going to evaluate on a daily basis.”
Bauserman took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense during the spring while Pryor was recovering from off-season foot surgery. Under the old Jim Tressel regime, he would have likely been named the front-runner to start the season-opener against Akron, but this is Fickell’s team now.
Photo by Dan Harker
“Like I told Joe the other day sitting down in a meeting, in the spring I was focused on what I was doing. That’s what this summer is about,” the 37-year old head coach said.
“I’m going to sit down and make sure I understand where we’re headed and what you guys have done in the past.”
Of the four competitors, only Bauserman has played a meaningful snap for the Buckeyes during his time in Columbus. That didn’t exactly go well against Illinois last season after Pryor left the game with a quad injury, but Bauserman doesn’t see why he can’t be the guy to lead the team in 2011.
“I feel like I should be able to put myself in the best position,” he said.
“I feel like I can play with the best of them. I don’t know if I have anything better than the other guys. Everybody has their own talents, but I think it’s whatever the best fit is for this team and the coaches will understand that.”
Bauserman is probably right when he says he may not do anything better than the other guys. Redshirt freshman Taylor Graham certainly has a stronger arm and sophomore Kenny Guiton looks to be more accurate. True freshman Braxton Miller obviously brings a unique athleticism to the position along with a sense of impending greatness.
“You have to know there’s going to be a fight,” said Bauserman, who has been waiting for this chance ever since he joined the team after a brief stint as a minor league pitcher.
“There’s going to be guys competing. Nobody wants to come here and be the backup. We’re all going to compete and do the best we can, whether it’s five games or the whole season.”
That part is the main difference heading into the fall. Even if Pryor had stuck around for his senior season in Columbus, the Buckeyes still needed one of the other four quarterbacks to emerge as a starter for the first five games while Pryor served his suspension.
Tressel had them working on that during the spring, and things won’t be too much different from a competition standpoint now that Pryor is gone for good.
“We figured it was up to us regardless because the first five games were just as important as the rest of the season,” Bauserman said.
The only thing that may change is whether the Buckeyes start to think a little bit more about the future now that they have a true quarterback competition taking place. Bauserman brings the most experience and leadership, but he would only be a temporary fix to a permanent problem.
If that is the thinking of the coaching staff, they may look a little closer at youngsters like Graham and Miller, who could guide the team for the foreseeable future. Either way, it should be as interesting a quarterback battle to watch as any in recent history.
“This is an exciting fall and when you come to camp it’s going to be a challenge,” Fickell said.
“We’re going to give everybody an opportunity and we’re going to evaluate them each and every day.”
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