Buckeyes seeking their temporary QB
Ohio State is 10 days from its annual spring football game and a chance to move forward from a tumultuous offseason, but coach Jim Tressel said Wednesday he's no closer to naming a starting quarterback for the Sept. 3 season opener vs. Akron.
Senior-to-be Terrelle Pryor is one of five Buckeyes suspended for the first five games this fall for violating NCAA rules by selling merchandise and memorabilia. Tressel will also serve a five-game suspension for his failure to report his knowledge of the situation.
Because Pryor took over the starting quarterback's job during his freshman season, it's a very inexperienced group vying to be the one — or even two — to replace him for a stretch that includes a road game at Miami (Fla.) and a home game against Michigan State. Tressel has been watching that group closely, but he said he'll likely have to wait until August, not only to make a decision but to get a more complete evaluation.
"I wish it was definitive," Tressel said. "I wish someone was head and shoulders above the rest, but I don't see that."
The contenders for the job include redshirt sophomore Kenny Guiton, senior Joe Bauserman, highly touted freshman Braxton Miller (an early enrollee) and redshirt freshman Taylor Graham.
Tressel said Guiton was the best in practice Tuesday. "But we don't have a game tomorrow," the coach added. "We don't have to make that choice today."
Ohio State will scrimmage as part of its practice session Saturday. The spring game is the following Saturday, April 24.
Not only is the inexperience of the competing quarterbacks an issue, but Ohio State is also very young at wide receiver and has only 10 healthy offensive linemen for spring practices. Tressel said he wants to make sure his quarterbacks are evaluated under fair circumstances and that they grow from whatever they encounter this spring.
"Every rep is important, and the quarterbacks need to feel that way," Tressel said. "But in the spring, we have a limited number of linemen, a limited number of experienced receivers, and until we get to the fall you can't put a total onus on the quarterback's performance."
Tressel said he could see in the spring game one guy getting a situation "where the world will be set up for him," meaning he's in with experienced receivers and gets good blocking and has a chance to make a big play. The staff will evaluate the whole body of work and look for consistency and improvement when preseason practice begins in August.
"The reps will be harder to earn come preseason," Tressel said. "But we also have to be fair and look at the scenarios each one was under."
Pryor also will get some snaps in preseason camp, further complicating the situation. He and his suspended teammates, a group that includes top returning running back Dan Herron and wide receiver Devier Posey, are eligible to return for Ohio State's game at Nebraska.
Pryor and the other suspended players are also allowed to participate in spring practice, but Pryor is a very limited participant as he recovers from January foot surgery. Tressel said Pryor "be back running around in May" as he's basically been an on-field coach this spring.
"What he’s really done to take the next step in his development has been to spend a lot of time in the film room, working with the other players," Tressel said. "We’ve been proud of the progress he’s made each year."
Pryor took to Twitter earlier this week to dispel a rumor that said he was considering the NFL supplemental draft. Tressel addressed that, and ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.'s assertion that Pryor should play tight end in the NFL on Wednesday.
"I doubt that anyone in the draft of 2012 will be taking (Pryor) as a tight end," Tressel said. "I'm not Mel Kiper, but I think he'll be taken at quarterback.
"I think this, you know, you can never worry too much about someone’s opinion because there’s lots of them, and you can never hold on to an opinion you like. He made a quantum leap last year, just in the way he ran the game, how he managed the game, and we've got to work like crazy on his throwing.
"He's taken snaps out of the shotgun, taken them from under center, he's made strides. He's worked. I think when that time comes he'll be looked at as a quarterback."