August 10, 2011

Under pressure under center?

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - If you are expecting a quick decision on who will be lining up under center for the season opener then you are going to be in for a bit of a disappointment.

First year head coach Luke Fickell put any dreams of a quick decision aside after the first fall camp practice and it appears to be open competition between the four scholarship quarterbacks in camp to fill the shoes of recently departed Terrelle Pryor.

"We are just evaluating each and every day," Fickell said on Monday after his team's first practice. "How it works out, that is hypothetical and we are going to let those guys determine it."

Two of Ohio State's quarterbacks have never played a down of college football (Braxton Miller and Taylor Graham) while the other two signal callers have combined for less than 50 total passing attempts (Joe Bauserman - 47, Kenny Guiton - 2). Regardless of who gets the call in the first game and moving forward the team is going to be short on real game experience under center when things get real.

"We just have a bunch of young guys who haven't had any game experience," Ohio State quarterback coach Nick Siciliano said. "(Practice will be about) creating an environment where they can get as many reps, live, that they can handle."

The departure of former head coach Jim Tressel however doesn't mean that there will be a revamped laundry list of things for a quarterback to do within the Ohio State system and don't expect to see and sort of reinventions.

"We are not taking any different approach the way that we are coaching them," Siciliano added. "The first thing is that they need to take care of the football and get the ball to our guys, in the right spots at the right time and then let everything take care of itself. But we are not coaching them any differently."

Siciliano's tenure at Ohio State (taking over for Joe Daniels) had solely been built upon working with Pryor and now will focus on him developing a new quarterback.

During week one of fall camp the QBs are more concerned with being on the same page with their wideouts and shaking off any ring rust that may have developed over the summer. Especially for players who did not see many reps in the season before.

"You are still trying to get acclimated to the speed," Bauserman said. "You don't see this in 7-on-7s in the summer and winter. It is going to be a lot different once the pads go on and we start hitting."

The pads will go on for the first time on Friday as the Buckeyes get through the first couple of NCAA-mandated non-pads practices. As always the quarterbacks will be off limits when it comes to hitting (donning black no-contact jerseys) but they have plenty of other things to worry about during that time.

"(The coaches) all have said that we know what we have to work on and do that," Guiton said. "Don't try and do too much and overdo yourself."

During the first two practices that were open to media observation it appeared that the pecking order went Bauserman, Guiton, Graham and then Miller. But the younger guys are anything but buried on that depth chart and the older guys know that they are going to be pushed with no clear-cut favorite in place.

"I feel like they are doing a great job with it and they are catching on," Guiton added. "They are learning from us and we are learning from them."

Both Miller and Graham entered Ohio State's programs as four-star recruits (by and with much more pomp and circumstance than either Guiton or Bauserman who were both lightly recruited. But what happened on the prep fields mean nothing on the fields of the WHAC where the Ohio State coaches are looking for the best player to emerge.

But what is the most important to Fickell and the coaching staff when it comes to a player separating himself from the pack? Of course a player needs to be able to get the job done physically but there is more to it than that at this level.

"To me it is confidence and leadership," Fickell said. "You can lead in different ways and you don't have to be the vocal guy but you have to have confidence. (The) guys have to believe in you and I think that is what we are trying to develop."

But for an offense that will be looking to redefine its identity in 2011, being able to consistently hit a ten yard out with a defensive lineman in ones face wouldn't be half bad either.


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