With one week of spring practice remaining, the Buckeyes will take to the field at Ohio Stadium for a practice session expected to include a significant scrimmaging period. For Joe Bauserman, Kenneth Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller, it is another opportunity to catch the eye of head coach Jim Tressel.
With all four quarterbacks battling for the right to earn the starting nod while incumbent starter Terrelle Pryor sits out the first five games due to an NCAA suspension, Tressel said Wednesday that establishing a pecking order at the position right now would be considered a crapshoot at best.
"I wish it was definitive," the coach said. "I wish someone was just head and shoulders above another, but at this point I don't see that."
So sums up the first half of the battle. Of the four, Bauserman has the most experience – not that it means much in this comparison. Now 25 years old, the former minor league pitcher has completed 25 of 47 passes in 24 career games but has proven himself to be little more than a backup.
Guiton attempted two passes last season as a redshirt freshman, Graham took a redshirt while battling a knee injury and Miller arrived for winter quarter to get an early start on his career. With Pryor watching as he recovers from offseason foot surgery, early practices for the group were a little rough.
"The biggest thing is just getting snaps from under center," said senior center Michael Brewster, who added he has almost exclusively snapped to Pryor during his career. "The first couple days we had a couple fumbled snaps but ever since we've gotten a comfort level with all of the quarterbacks."
Snaps have been fairly evenly split among the four, but Bauserman and Guiton have taken the most with the first-team unit during periods open to reporters. Bauserman has missed at least one practice session due to a reported class scheduling conflict.
For now, the focus is not simply on finding a new starter. Tressel and the Buckeyes approach spring practice as a time for improvement and refinement of fundamentals, meaning repetitions are split more evenly.
When fall camp rolls around, that will no longer be the case with final decisions needing to be made. With an eye toward naming a starter, reps will become more focused – plus a fully healthy Pryor will be back in the mix barring unforeseen setbacks.
"What you're trying to develop is that consistency over time," Tressel said. "I think it is critical by the end of 15 practices that we do start thinking about some sort of a pecking order."
Pryor is expected to be back running May 1, Tressel said.
The coach added that he felt Guiton had the best performance during Tuesday's practice but added that he had not felt that way about any particular player overall since spring session started.
"Your opinion would vary based upon the ones you've seen," he said. "I vacillate each day. I thought yesterday probably the guy that had the best day was Kenny but we don't have a game tomorrow so we don't have to make that decision."
Adding to the situation is the fact that the Buckeyes are short on offensive linemen with just 11 total players on hand to rotate along the line. The result has been a number of players being pressed into duty at new positions.
Brewster said that has not made it any easier on quarterbacks trying to stand out from the crowd.
"We're just trying to teach some of the younger guys their assignments so we can keep the pressure off the quarterbacks so they can get their work done and let the receivers do their work," he said.
Added Tressel: "Because there's a limited number of linemen (and) there's a limited number of experienced receivers, sometimes the world doesn't look perfect every time you have the ball back there when you're trying to make decisions. You might have had one of those days where as soon as you hit your back foot there's an issue coming at you and you couldn't have one of those progressive days."
Tressel often points out that a team can not win the national championship during spring football but that it can lose it if proper development is not attained. The same might not be said about the battle to be the starting quarterback, however.
"I'd hope you couldn't lose the quarterback job in the spring but maybe you could if you looked at the whole body of work and it just wasn't what we needed it to be with the realities that the reps will be harder to earn come preseason," he said. "I think we also have to be fair and look at the scenario each one of them was under and evaluate him as objectively as we possibly can."