Monday, January 10, 2011

OHIO STATE POSITION PREVIEW 2011: QUARTERBACKS, PRYOR'S FILL-IN?

Who will replace Terrelle Pryor in the Buckeyes first five games of 2011? (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — Of all the Ohio State football players suspended for the first five games of the 2011 regular season, the one Buckeye Nation is worrying about replacing the most is quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Not saying that DeVier Posey, Dan Herron, Mike Adams or Solomon Thomas will be easy chalk-ups for the Buckeyes, but none of them play at the most critical position on the football field — and none of them are the face of the entire program.

Pryor's magnificent play in the Sugar Bowl last week — where he totaled 336 yards and two touchdown passes, while winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award in a BCS bowl game — certainly didn't ease "the nation's" feelings about his upcoming absence.

Many look at the 2011 season as a possible championship year for the Buckeyes. Sure, that's always the case in Columbus, but this season especially, the title hopes were at its highest.

Following the NCAA's ruling late last month, it's hard to imagine winning it all with five of your veteran horses in the stable, most notably Pryor. He means to the Buckeyes what David Lee Roth meant to Van Halen.

So, now the question is: who will play the role of Sammy Hagar for the first five games of the season?

(Note: for those of you under the age of 35, Sammy Hagar is a singer who replaced David Lee Roth as lead vocalist of Van Halen.) 

(Double note: if you're under the age of 30, Van Halen was a popular rock music group from the late 1970's to the early 1990's.)


THE CANDIDATES (In alphabetical order)

Joe Bauserman
(TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
JOE BAUSERMAN (6-1, 233 Sr.)
Positives: Although Bauserman has only appeared in mop-up duty for the Buckeyes — and a few injury fill-in plays for Pryor — he has by far the most collegiate experience of any other quarterback in the competition.

Bauserman has completed 25-of-47 passes for 320 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his career at Ohio State. He is 25 years old, and has been in head coach Jim Tressel's system going on five years.

Negatives: His abilities compared to Pryor are about as far apart as you can get. Bauserman does possess a fairly strong arm, but his time playing professional baseball has shown in his delivery, as he slings the football like an outfielder, instead of driving it with his shoulders like a quarterback should. Also, because of Bauserman's limitations running the ball, the Buckeyes offensive playbook would need a complete makeover. I don't know if that's something Tressel wants to do.

Taylor Graham
(TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
TAYLOR GRAHAM (6-4, 225 rFR.)
Positives: Graham certainly passes the eye test, as his size (6-4, 225) is ideal for the quarterback position. Graham possesses outstanding passing mechanics, as well. Of course, he is the son of former Buckeye and NFL quarterback Kent Graham, so Taylor being a polished passer isn't too hard to believe.

Negatives: Besides his lack of experience, Graham — like Bauserman — doesn't bring the running aspect to the game, meaning that the offensive playbook would have to be altered considerably with him under center. If Pryor wasn't coming back, that probably wouldn't be too big of a deal. But with Pryor returning in early October at Nebraska, the similarities in the playbook/scheme becomes very important.

Ken Guiton
(TBT/Joshua Stueve)
KEN GUITON (6-2, 190 So.)
Positives: Guiton brings athleticism to the position, something that will be looked at highly by Tressel, being that he wants to keep the offense in those first five games as close to the one Pryor runs as possible. Make no mistake about it, though, Guiton isn't a carbon copy of Pryor by any means, and his throwing style is a lot like Bauserman's — very baseball-like. But his ability to make things happen with his feet, will certainly put Guiton's name near the top of the list for Pryor's replacement.

Negatives: Inexperience. Guiton has attempted just two passes in his collegiate career and one of those tosses was an interception. His passing skills must be upgraded considerably if he wants to get the keys to the offense in Pryor's absence.

Braxton Miller
(Huber Heights City Schools)
BRAXTON MILLER (6-3, 200 Fr.)
Positives: An extremely talented player, who can do damage with both his arm and his feet. By far the closest to Pryor skill-wise of all the candidates. In fact, Miller is a much more polished passer than Pryor was as a freshman — heck, maybe even now — and his running abilities reminds one of former West Virginia star Pat White.

Very elusive, very quick. He also has a great knowledge of the game for such a young player, and displays incredible poise under pressure. He was a four-year starter at Huber Heights (OH) Wayne High School, and Tressel thinks as highly of Miller as any player he has ever recruited to Ohio State. He offered Miller as a sophomore for crying out loud.

Negatives: Again — inexperience. Miller hasn't played a single snap of college football. He hasn't even attended a single practice for that matter.

Justin Siems
(TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
JUSTIN SIEMS (6-2, 216 So.)
Positives: Decent size and mechanics. Although he hasn't gotten a whole lot of reps, being at the bottom of the depth chart the past couple seasons, Siems has actually looked fairly impressive in limited action during practice.

Siems also appears to be a pretty intelligent player on the practice field.

Negatives: Just too far down the list. He is a scout-team quarterback at best as of right now, which isn't too bad of a gig if you ask me.

SO ... WHO WILL WIN THE 'PART-TIME' JOB?

Obviously it will be a great competition, especially in spring practice. I will not completely rule out any of the four candidates, that's for sure (again, Siems is just too far down the list).

If Miller would have been like most freshman and enrolled in the summertime, I would've said that it was unlikely that he would start. I still think he would've played, but probably wouldn't have started. Tressel would've most likely went with the experienced Bauserman as his No. 1, with Miller coming off the pine for about 10-12 snaps a game — much like he did with Todd Boeckman and Pryor early in the 2008 season when TP was a freshman.

However, with Miller already enrolled at Ohio State, I really feel that the job is his for the taking. With three months to learn the system, working out with the team and getting some hands-on time with the coaches — and Pryor — Miller will come into the spring with a good understanding of what he needs to do. That's when his superior talents come to the forefront.

With Pryor most likely being sidelined in the spring, while recovering from foot surgery, Miller will get plenty of reps with the first team. With that experience, as well as another three months to soak things in before summer/fall camp, Miller shoots to the top of the depth chart and onto the field as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback against Akron, in the season opener on Sept. 3.

Hey, Van Halen went on to have a No. 1 album under Hagar.

I think the Buckeyes will be just fine with Miller — for the first five games.