Quarterback Battle Will Hinge On Key Factors

What's the key to solving the biggest position battle in Ohio State's 2011 fall camp? There are many factors at play as Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller battle for snaps, but head coach Luke Fickell and QB coach Nick Siciliano have a few things they're looking for in a starter.

Nick Siciliano wasn't one to mince words after Ohio State completed its second morning practice of the 2011 fall camp last Tuesday morning.

When asked what he's looking for in a quarterback as the Buckeyes try to find a starter to replace Terrelle Pryor, Siciliano summed it up in three attributes, four words and one comma.

"Leadership, toughness and consistency," the quarterbacks coach said.

Head coach Luke Fickell, meanwhile, pointed to leadership and confidence when asked the same question one day earlier, so it's starting to become clear what the Buckeye staff wants out of the position as it looks for a starter for the Sept. 3 opener with Akron.

Fickell also made sure to say all four quarterbacks – Joe Bauserman, Kenneth Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller – vying for the job are capable, which is why intangibles are going to be so important.

It's impossible to say who has the edge in that regard, but we can do a little analysis.

Leadership: Bauserman is the oldest player on the team and Guiton is one of the most popular, so they would seem to have the edge, but one player who can't be counted out in this regard is Graham.

"If you come in and take charge, you have my respect," fullback Zach Boren said in July. "Taylor Graham did a little bit (in spring) just because he knows everything. He was out directing people and stuff like that, which was a breath of fresh air I guess, especially with a young guy like that."

Then there's Miller, who has a quiet, reserved personality, especially for a five-star prospect coming out of high school. However, whereas Pryor seemed to be aloof from his teammates as a youngster, Miller is working right along with his peers.

"He's good," freshman wideout Devin Smith said. "He's a hard worker. We hang out a lot, talk about football. He's constantly in my ear telling me to keep working hard. He's a great teammate."

Boren also made sure to point out that none of the quarterbacks are lacking when it comes to taking charge in the huddle.

"All of the quarterbacks are like that," Boren said after Tuesday's practice. "They're not scared to say anything. It's nice to have a quarterback take charge."

Toughness: Jim Tressel often pointed to toughness as his favorite trait in a quarterback, a belief shared by Siciliano, the former coach's hand-picked quarterback tutor.

Unfortunately, this might be the most difficult way to evaluate Ohio State's quarterbacks given the paucity of game film that exists for each of them, as Bauserman leads the way with 47 passes over three years.

But there are signs all four bring something to the table in this regard. Siciliano made sure to praise both the fifth-year senior and Guiton for their toughness, while Graham kept coming back from being sacked in the spring game and eventually tossed a 68-yard touchdown to Tyrone Williams.

As for Miller, he took plenty of hits in high school as a dual-threat signal caller, and he played part of his senior year on a bum leg that limited his mobility but still led Huber Heights Wayne to the Division I title game. Not bad.

Consistency: This is the place where the wheat could separate from the chaff. All four quarterbacks have shown flashes of talent in the past and early in camp, but the one who is able to do what is asked most often will likely take the first snap of 2011.

Bauserman has the most knowledge of the offense given his time in the program, and he hit a couple of deep passes during the first week that showed growth. However, he still hesitates in the pocket at times, and some of his balls tend to nosedive short of their intended target.

Guiton is an intriguing combination of passing and throwing ability, but he also doesn't stand out in either area. He had a solid first week of camp – hitting short and intermediate passes consistently – but did throw a poor interception, and he doesn't have the strongest arm and is short on experience having thrown only five passes at OSU.

Graham would have been a more attractive choice about a decade ago before quarterbacks became prized for their running ability as much as their arm. He has a cannon, has a good knowledge of the passing game and can deliver the ball all over the field, but he took five sacks in the spring game and is still adjusting to the speed of the game after missing much of last fall with an injury.

Finally, few would argue Miller brings the most tools to the table. He has solid mechanics and a quick release, though his ball can wobble a bit at the end, and his ability to turn negative plays into positive ones with his scrambling ability is unmatched. He's also admitted he's still learning the passing plays and faces a learning curve, though his skills invariably flash at times in practice.

In the end, the player that gives Ohio State the best chance to win will be the first one to step onto the Ohio Stadium field.

"We're not taking any different approach the way we're coaching them," Siciliano said. "The first thing is they need to take care of the football and get the ball to our guys in the right spots at the right time and let everything take care of itself."

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