May 20, 2010

Taking a look at the quarterbacks

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is the face of the Buckeye football program. And rightfully so, as he goes so does the Ohio State football team.

There have been some growing pains in Pryor's two first years at the helm of the program, but this season it seems as if Ohio State's coaching staff will have more of an emphasis on the passing game.

Just like it always is, all eyes will be on Pryor once fall camp begins and the Buckeyes get ready for a season in which the fans are expecting a solid run toward a national title.

But Pryor and his progression aren't the only thing that has yet to be seen, and that included a looming backup quarterback position battle in the fall and the arrival of a former Buckeye's son this fall.

BuckeyeGrove.com breaks down the quarterback position and what to expect out of Pryor and the rest of the gang right here:

Key losses: None
Returners: Terrelle Pryor, Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, and Justin Siems
Fall newcomers: Taylor Graham

Quarterback
2 Terrelle Pryor (6-foot-6, 235, Jr.)
14 Joe Bauserman (6-foot-1, 233, Jr.)
13 Ken Guiton (6-foot-2, 190, rFr.)
17 Justin Siems (6-foot-2, 216, rFr.)

1. Where is Pryor at with his knee injury and is there any more cause for concern as we continue to get closer to fall camp?

Terrelle Pryor dropped quite the bomb just days before the Rose Bowl when he said he had a torn PCL in his knee. While off-season knee surgery was once something Pryor said he didn't need, the junior quarterback did have arthroscopic surgery in mid-February and was coming off the procedure heading into spring ball. However, the knee did nothing to slow Pryor down during those 15 practices this spring and there should be no concern heading into fall camp.

Pryor was obviously limited at times this spring just because the coaching staff likes to keep things safe with the quarterbacks. You could often see Pryor wearing a brace on his left knee, but there was no drill, scrimmage, or even game that Pryor was not able to participate in. With another few months to continue to make the knee stronger, Pryor should be 100 percent come the commencement of fall camp.

2. How improved can we expect Pryor to be now that he is an upperclassman with two years of starting experience?

While some may argue the point when looking at the first half of Pryor's year last season, the coaching staff will note the vast improvements Pryor made from his freshman to sophomore year. Now, however, is the time where the biggest jump is expected out of the quarterback, who just like that is now an upperclassman.

Pryor seemed to make his biggest strides of the year last year after arguably his worst game as a Buckeye against Purdue, a game in which his four turnovers cost Ohio State a road win. But last season, from the season finale at Michigan to the Rose Bowl win roughly a month later, that's when Pryor seemingly grew up the most in the coaches eyes.

Now, nearly a full off-season later, what is it that we can expect from Pryor come the regular season in 2010? Both the coaches and Pryor will continue to stress footwork, decision-making, and timing as the biggest improvements he has made. This time, though, there was a noticeable difference.

I would be a complete liar if I said that Pryor looked sharp and spot on with his passes in every practice this spring, because frankly he didn't, but there was a noticeable improvement in his pocket presence, his footwork, his delivery, and most importantly his decision making. In the past Pryor had a hard time reading defenses and getting the ball out at the perfect time, but for the first time he finally looked comfortable back there and sported an aura of confidence about him.

In the spring game after the starting out with a 3-and-out possession, Pryor orchestrated a quick touchdown drive and finished 8-of-12 passing with 108 yards and a touchdown. Pryor's development was apparent and if given full trust by Tressel, he could have quite the year in 2010.

3. How would you rate Pryor's career so far when analyzing them against the expectations?

Tressel was asked on a conference call this very question heading into spring ball and his answer is exactly the way I currently feel about Pryor and what he has already accomplished with the Buckeyes.

"I don't know that I expected him after two years have been the quarterback on two Big Ten Championship teams and taken us to two BCS games," Tressel said. "I don't know that I thought, 'Oh boy that is going to be a walk in the park to do that.' Now am I surprised that he has been able to be a part of that? No. I don't know that I thought that was going to be an automatic."

It is sometimes funny to go back and look at Pryor's overall perception and then compare that to what he has actually accomplished during his young career. There have certainly been shortcomings, which are natural, especially when looking at what the expectations for this man are. There is no doubting that Pryor has a long way to go, and if anyone has made that clear it has been me. Anyone who has ready my reviews on Pryor knows that I can be critical. But at the same time, it is quite amazing to see what he has been able to do so far and right now it only looks like it is progressing fast in the right direction.

4. Is Bauserman good enough to keep the Buckeyes winning if something we to happen to Pryor?

Once again I will use a question that was posed to the coaching staff during spring ball and quote quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano. Toward the end of spring ball, Siciliano was asked if he would be confident in Bauserman taking over if something were to happen to Pryor and the quarterbacks coach simply said he wouldn't lose any sleep.

While that may be something Siciliano said, he truly seemed to mean it. Siciliano cited Bauserman's familiarity with competitive situations - going back to his days in professional baseball - and was quite confident nothing could happen to rattle Bauserman. Of course those are great things to hear from the quarterback coach in regards to a reserve.

If that were to actually happen, who knows how Bauserman would react to it. Bauserman has certainly grown as a passer since becoming a Buckeye, but he has been erratic at times with his throws. One minute Bauserman has one of the nicer passes you can see and the next he is overshooting receivers. It's that consistency that could be the key for him when it comes to improvement but right now it looks like Bauserman would be the guy if there were a game tomorrow and something happened to Pryor.

5. Did Guiton prove he wasn't just a throwing to the 2009 class and does he have a shot for the No. 2 quarterback spot?

The second Guiton got on campus he proved he wasn't just a throw-in to the 2009 class. In fact, it wouldn't be too farfetched at this point to predict that Guiton will one day be the starting quarterback at Ohio State once Pryor moves on.

Guiton really showed his solid throwing arm throughout the spring and was perhaps the best performer in the spring game. Guiton finished that game by completing 11-of-21 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, including a 45-yard touchdown strike with less than a minute to play to Taurian Washington to send the gray team to the win.

With the performance there is a looming battle between Bauserman and Guiton for the backup spot come the fall. Right now it is up in the air, but Guiton could be an attractive option given the style of offense Pryor runs with the Buckeyes. This is pure speculation, but Guiton was definitely the most impressive reserve quarterback this spring.

6. Is Graham the perfect redshirt candidate?

Graham, the son of former Ohio State quarterback Kent Graham, has yet to show up on camps so it is hard to predict just what will be expected of him, but it isn't hard to guess that he will be redshirted as a freshman. With three quarterbacks ahead of him already, it wouldn't be the right move to burn the redshirt, nor would an opportunity for him to play his freshman year seem to ever come up. There are no guarantees on anything, but Graham redshirting as a freshman is a pretty safe bet.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.



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