Way Too Early Look: 2011 Quarterbacks

There's always something to worry about in the offseason...

With the suspension of Terrelle Pryor, the starting QB for the first five games of 2011 will be one of the hottest topics this off season.

While there will be plenty of intrigue and fan interest, it won’t matter.

That’s right, who plays quarterback in the first five games of 2011 won’t matter… not even a little bit.

Okay, okay, long term it matters, but for the first five games of 2011 it makes no difference.

Why? because does anyone really think that Tressel will put a game in the hands of the new quarterback to win or lose?

Absolutely not.

It took Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor two full seasons as the starter before they earned Tressel’s trust and were moved from the realm of ‘game manager’ to winning a game throwing the ball… and even then, Tressel still wins games in November by pounding the rock on the ground.

So Buckeye Nation, this is my plea to you. Please, please don’t debate who should start at quarterback based on their merits as a passer.

We all know that the starting QB is going to be chosen for excelling at taking the ball from center without fumbling, handing it off without fumbling, running around without fumbling, and throwing it far enough out of bounds to guarantee no interceptions.

Too pessimistic for you?

Well, another reason it doesn’t matter who starts in place of Pryor is because the Buckeyes are more than capable of going 5-0 running the ball with a stable of outstanding young backs running behind a massive offensive line.

Buckeye fans, get ready, because deep down, we all know who the starting QB will be.

Joe Bauserman

RS Senior

Terrelle Pryor he is not, but he does have the most time in the system and will likely get the first, second, and third shot to start from Tressel.

That’s right, get ready for the Joe Bauserman era at Ohio State.

We all know it’s coming, which is why “anyone but Bauserman” will be one of the most popular phrases on the Buckeye interwebs until September.

I don’t want anyone to think I am excited about this inevitability, it’s just that I have watched Tressel-coached teams for too long to think anyone but the fifth year senior will get starting snaps in the absence of Pryor.

Bauserman does have some redeeming qualities. He is a decent runner and has been in the system forever, so he probably has a good grasp of it. The biggest redeeming quality will be having absolutely no QB controversy when Pryor returns to the starting lineup.

Outside of that, the scouting report is mostly negative.

Bauserman has an unconventional ‘sidearm’ delivery with below average accuracy. He didn’t help himself by throwing a terrible interception against Illinois at a critical point in the game. Right or wrong, that is the lasting image I have of Bauserman from 2010.

On top of everything else, there is also almost zero long term upside for giving Bauserman reps as the starter. Being a 5th year senior, he will be gone after the season regardless, leaving the Buckeyes looking for their next QB again in 2012.

By starting Bauserman, the Buckeyes will be missing a golden opportunity to sort out the 2012 QB situation and give the winner some genuine starting experience a year early.

So, color me less than excited but resigned to the Bauserman era. Thankfully, it should only last five games or less.

If anyone outside of Bauserman gets the nod, Ohio State fans will know they have a truly special QB waiting to take over in 2012. After all, the last time a youngster took over for an established upper classman was when Pryor replaced Todd Boeckman in 2008.

That has worked out alright.

It will take a truly herculean effort by one of the young quarterbacks to surpass Bauserman in the eyes of Tressel, but if it happens, Buckeye Nation has reason to be excited.

Ken Guiton

RS Sophomore

Guiton will have to be more than above average to win the starting spot.

Although he will only be a redshirt sophomore in 2011, Guiton is the second most experienced candidate to replace Pryor. He played in five games last season, but most of that experience involved handing the ball off in mop up duty.

Given the likely role of the replacement QB, that may be just the kind of experience he needs to excel.

Joking aside, Guiton only threw two passes in 2010. One was a five yard completion, one was an interception. Clearly you would like to see a little more experience and success throwing the ball than that.

On the other hand, Guiton was the most impressive QB in last year’s spring game, connecting on 11 of 21 passes for 167 yards and 2 touchdowns. Many fans are banking on that performance as a source of optimism.

If I had to describe Gution as a quarterback, I think ‘above average’ would be fitting. Above average arm strength, above average accuracy, above average running ability (he had a 15 yard touchdown run against Eastern Michigan).

The key for Guiton to overtake Bauserman will be his decision-making ability, which will have to be more than above average.

Unfortunately for Guiton and anyone that wants to see him as the starter, it will be difficult to establish his superior decision-making ability during practice, particularly since Bauserman will always receive the benefit of doubt from Tressel as the senior.

It is unlikely that Guiton will supplant Bauserman… but not impossible.

Taylor Graham

RS Freshman

A fall enrollment (no spring game) and a redshirt season don’t shed much light on what Taylor Graham brings to the table in 2011. Judging by reports from practice, he has a strong arm and throws a nice deep ball, but outside of that I haven’t heard much to speak of.

Graham battled injuries throughout most of his high school career, which may have set him back in terms of development. Out of all the candidates, he seems like the least likely starter, but I am all about pleasant surprises.

Braxton Miller


To redshirt or not to redshirt, that is the question.

By far the most intriguing prospect to replace Pryor (at the beginning of 2011 and beyond), Braxton Miller has already been dubbed the next great quarterback by many fans.

The big question is ‘when?’

This is where Buckeye fans will be split, with some wanting to see him get his shot immediately and others wanting a redshirt season so he doesn’t “waste” a year of eligibility while Pryor is still on the roster.

The fans clamoring to see Braxton right away have a solid arguement. If he is the future at QB, he might as well get some experience right away.

In a way, Pryor’s suspension is the perfect opportunity to find the QB in 2012. Since Miller is already on campus and will be a full participant in spring practice, he will have the same opportunity to impress as the other QBs.

If he is ready to go then let him go. Or so the argument goes…

I happen to be firmly in the camp that desires a redshirt for Miller. There are several reasons for this.

First, there is Terrelle Pryor and his inevitable return as the starter. If Miller is the greatest thing since sliced bread, at best you will have a QB controversy when Pryor returns from suspension.

Second, there is the glaring lack of experience at wide receiver.

When Pryor took over as a true freshman, he had two experienced, NFL-caliber receivers to throw to in Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline. In 2011, the quarterback won’t have that luxury. No matter how well the QB makes their reads and throws the ball, the receivers may be too inconsistent and inexperienced to make the passing game work, especially at the beginning of the year.

Finally, will Tressel even open up the offense enough to make it worth burning a year of eligibility for Miller? Especially when he will only be starting for five games at most?

In a ground heavy offensive attack with extremely inexperienced receivers, how much will we really be able to see any of the quarterbacks shine? By the time the QB and the receivers get into any type of rhythm and Tressel feels comfortable opening the offense up, Pryor will very likely be back from suspension.

So, to tie this in to my opening, why waste a year of Braxton Miller’s eligibility if his primary responsibility is handing the ball off without fumbling?

Some might argue that Miller’s talent would force Tressel to open up the offense and expand the QBs role in it, but given the receivers, the running backs, the offensive  line, and Tressel’s style and history, that seems highly unlikely.

One last thing to consider is the injury bug.

Miller battled injuries during his high school career and may need an extra year in Ohio State’s training program before he can hold up physically at the college level. Consider the case of Denard Robinson for comparison.

And so on…

In the end, Ohio State can win the first five games of 2011 regardless of who takes snaps under center. Short term, it really doesn’t matter who wins the QB combine this spring.

Looking ahead to 2012, however, this spring will have huge implications for who will replace Pryor. For that reason, the quarterback debate will rage on in the coming months. Specifically, whether or not to redshirt Miller will be hotly debated.

In situations like this, it is usually best to trust the coaches. They have more information than anyone and are in the best position to decide what to do. Despite wanting to see Miller redshirted, if the coaches decide he is ready to play, I am on board with it.

Whether you trust the coaches or not, it will be extremely interesting to see how things shake out during spring practice and in the spring game.

It should be fun.