New writer Chris brings us insight into the quarterback situation in Columbus, with a look back at some previous QB tandems…
There is an old saying that history often repeats itself. When it comes to a quarterback derby, Ohio State’s history is fraught with them.
It became clear with each boo on Saturday from the 105,000 fans crammed into Ohio Stadium that the honeymoon with Joe Bauserman is over. With every errant pass, throngs of scarlet and gray clad spectators wondered when it was going to be Miller Time, well Braxton Miller time.
Whether a change needs to be made or not, the problem is nothing new when it comes to Buckeye signal callers.
Stan Jackson and Joe Germaine duked it out in the late 90’s. Steve Bellisari and Austin Moherman dueled at the turn of the century, and most recently Terelle and Todd fought for the job in 2008.
While the Bauserman – Braxton affair has many similarities to the Boeckman and Pryor battle, this one resembles one that unfolded right in front of my eyes: Troy Smith vs. Justin Zwick.
When Craig Krenzel graduated after the 2003 season, the million dollar question on all minds was who was going to seize the job.
It seemed that after looking at just sheer pedigree, Justin Zwick seemed to be the heir apparent to start under center. What seemed like a no brainer outside the program wasn’t so clear to everyone on the inside.
From the first day Troy Smith set foot on the grass located outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Smith could throw the football. In what was a throw away scholarship at the end of the 2002 recruiting class, Smith came in, and with his play seemed to resemble exactly what the Buckeyes were looking for in a quarterback.
Zwick had plenty of the intangibles a college coach might want in a quarterback too: size, a good arm, and most of all a legacy (Zwick is considered one of the best high school quarterbacks in Ohio history).
But what the Zwick/Smith battle came down to was one intangible that you can’t teach: fearlessness.
Ohio State has long needed a quarterback who can think on his feet. It’s what made Joe Germaine a house hold name and what many loathed about Steve Bellisari.
Corny as it may seem, being a playmaker is born out of a competitive spirit that is rooted in being fearless on a football field.
Troy was fearless, but Zwick was not. Troy released the ball with confidence, certain he was going to make a play. Justin was too hesitant at times, always worrying where his passes might end up. (For the record, Justin is a great guy, who was always a first class individual. I think the one time he played with a chip on his shoulder was the Alamo Bowl, where he was great.)
Reflecting on everything that transpired in 2004, if it weren’t for some off the field behavioral issues for Troy Smith, the season might have been much better than the 8-4 season the Buckeyes went through if Smith had started all season.
That brings me back to the current battle for quarterback at Ohio State.
Joe Bauserman has already garnered a reputation as somewhat of a safe choice by the Ohio State coaching staff. Grasp that for a moment.
Ohio State’s most successful seasons have come due in large part to quarterbacks with a swagger or arrogance that fans celebrate and pundits loathe.
From Holy Buckeye at Purdue in 2002 to Pryor’s scramble at Wisconsin in 2008 or at Iowa last season to Germaine’s game winning drive in Pasadena, all of it was born because of guys willing to make plays.
Throw after throw and play after play on Saturday, Bauserman was timid, throwing passes that sailed over his receivers’ heads to the front rows of AA deck.
When asked about his safe play and the taunts that followed, Bauserman quipped back with, “I’m going to throw the ball away, and if that’s what they want to do, that’s up to them.
What he doesn’t get is all the safe play leaves too many yards and touchdowns on the field. Bauserman would be smart to realize that there’s a profound difference between taking a shot and making a bad decision.
It is that line that has made some Buckeye quarterbacks great and others not.
It is unknown whether Miller is fearless or not, but there were glimpses during the season opening win against Akron. Miller’s pass to Evan Spencer and his completion to Devin Smith were both indications that Braxton wasn’t afraid to look downfield. Those passes may have been risky, but it’s that steel resolve that wins championships.
At some point whether it be in Miami this weekend, in the Shoe against Wisconsin, or in the Big House, a play is going to need to be made that will decide whether Ohio State wins or loses. It might be throwing a pass downfield late in games or trying to fit a ball in a small seam. Regardless of when it comes, rest assured it will come.
There is only question that remains: Is Joe Bauserman the guy who is going to make that play?