Scouting The Buckeyes

The Buckeyes went through a quarterback benching last year, but head coach Jim Tressel isn't inclined to do the same before Ohio State takes on the Gophers Saturday.

When a struggling Todd Boeckman failed to move the offense and turned the ball over three times in a blowout loss at Southern Cal last year, he was replaced at quarterback the following week by Terrelle Pryor.

Now it is Pryor struggling. He failed to move the offense in the stunning 26-18 loss to Purdue and turned it over four times.

Pryor isn't going anywhere.

Coach Jim Tressel stood boldly behind Pryor this week and refused to even think about going to backup quarterback Joe Bauserman — either last week against the Boilermakers or this week against Minnesota. Tressel wouldn't compare Boeckman's struggles last year with Pryor's this year.

"I'm not sure that they're comparable at all," Tressel said. "They don't feel to me as being similar situations ... Don't believe at this moment that (playing Bauserman) would be the best thing for the team."

Pryor led the Big Ten in passing efficiency last season as a freshman. With more freedom in the offense, he has plummeted to ninth, thanks in part to his eight interceptions — twice as many as he had all of last year.

Pryor seems steadfast against scrambling in proving his worth as a passer, even forfeiting a chance to run for at least 10 yards on a play against Purdue that instead resulted in an interception.

Still, Tressel has seen enough during the practice week to believe Pryor gives the Bucks the best chance to win — and not the 24-year-old Bauserman, who spent three years playing minor league baseball.

Tressel said Pryor had fewer negative plays against Purdue than he has had in other games this year, but the negative plays were worse — the 21-yard sack that also resulted in a fumble, for example. The one area Pryor needs to improve, Tressel said, is what happens when plays break down. That only comes with experience, though, since coaches don't typically rehearse linebackers coming free on a blitz after a missed assignment.

"That's the hardest one for a quarterback to progress in, and usually with the hardest ones, there's the slowest progression," Tressel said. "But I think he's coming along just fine. As fine as I would like it to be? No. But he's progressing."

SERIES HISTORY: Ohio State leads 41-7 (last meeting, 34-21, Ohio State, 2008)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Terrelle Pryor and the offensive line continue to struggle, making life miserable for the rest of the Buckeyes. Injuries have sent the line into a flux, while Pryor seems to be regressing from his solid freshman season. Pryor has thrown eight interceptions in seven games and the passing offense is last in the Big Ten and 101st in the nation.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Thrust into numerous sudden change-of-possession situations due to turnovers, Ohio State's defense didn't play as well against Purdue as it had in previous weeks. The menacing unit that pitched consecutive shutouts a few weeks back seems to have lost a little of the luster, though Ohio State is still ninth in the nation in rushing yards allowed (87.9 pg) and 11th in points allowed (14 pg). Safety Kurt Coleman, named a quarterfinalist this week for the Lott Trophy, leads a secondary that can create the big plays. Ohio State needs more of a pass rush from Thaddeus Gibson and Cameron Heyward. After a breakout ‘08, Gibson has just one sack this year.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Minnesota at Ohio State, Oct. 24 — The Buckeyes have won the last six meetings in the series. More importantly, Ohio State is 18-2 in games following a loss under Jim Tressel.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Neutralizing Gophers receiver Eric Decker will be a huge task for Ohio State. Decker's 104.4 yards per game leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th nationally. Gophers junior quarterback Adam Weber has struggled at times, throwing nine interceptions after having eight as a sophomore. Weber has thrown at least one interception in six of Minnesota's seven games. Ohio State always seems to get healthy against the Gophers, and right now they need it. The Bucks are slumping offensively and looking for a spark wherever they can find one.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • CB Chimdi Chekwa — Will be charged with slowing Eric Decker, one of the league's top receivers. Chekwa got his first interception last week against Purdue.

  • QB Terrelle Pryor — Under intense scrutiny after a number of sub-par games. Pryor needs to get back to using his feet instead of forcing passes that aren't there.

  • RB Brandon Saine — With Dan Herron questionable and not listed on the depth chart, the bulk of the load will again fall on Saine. He has totaled 87 yards the last two weeks with Herron absent.

    NOTES

  • QB Terrelle Pryor needs two yards to become the fifth quarterback in school history to run for 1,000 career yards.

  • Ohio State has won at least 10 games and a Big Ten title each of the last four years. The Bucks have played in a BCS game in six of Jim Tressel's eight seasons.

  • RB Dan Herron (ankle) is listed as questionable, according to coach Jim Tressel. Herron is not listed on the depth chart this week: Brandon Saine is listed as the starter with freshman Jordan Hall as the backup.

  • OL Jim Cordle played just a couple of snaps against Purdue before the coaches deemed he wasn't ready for game speed. Tressel hopes with another week of rest, he'll be stronger and available for more work against the Gophers.

  • OL Andy Miller, who started the season as the left tackle, has missed the last three games with the flu. Tressel is hopeful that Miller can put on some of the weight he has lost (nearly 20 pounds) and could be used at least sparingly against the Gophers.


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