Fickell Not Against Two-Quarterback Scheme

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell admitted for the first time Thursday that the quarterback race is down to Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller. Who will win, however, is still up in the air.

Given the nature of Luke Fickell's defensive-minded approach, it may surprise some that Ohio State's first-year head coach has a rather elaborate point of view on offensive schemes that utilize multiple quarterbacks.

The legend of Fickell's toughness stems from his ability to play through Ohio State's 1997 Rose Bowl win over Arizona State with a torn pectoral muscle, but he remembers he never would have been in Pasadena if two different quarterbacks hadn't led the way for the Buckeyes that season.

"You can look back to say in ‘96 when I was here our senior year we had a two quarterback system and it worked," Fickell responded when asked his point of view on potentially playing two quarterbacks. "Whatever fits the team."

Much like the Buckeyes did in the 1996 season with Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine, Fickell now takes over a team that doesn't have a clear leader at quarterback but has two players with immensely different skill sets.

For the first time Thursday Fickell isolated fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller as the two quarterbacks that are in contention to start for the team. Which one has the upper hand has yet to be determined.

The decision is tough, with Bauserman sporting the most experience, a stronger arm, and a better understanding of the offense. But then there's Miller, the uber-talented freshman that is more athletically capable of escaping pressure and making plays with his legs.

Though it remains interesting that Fickell will be faced with a decision of this magnitude in his first year leading the program, the head coach understands that it's likely the Buckeyes will have two quarterbacks playing key snaps when the team opens the season Sept. 3 in the Horseshoe against Akron.

"I think we have guys that do some different things," Fickell said of the quarterbacks, "and we're going to make sure we're going to get them to continue to compete with those opportunities as we go into the first (week) and see how they do.

"Sometimes, like you said, it is different out there when it is controlled (in practice). I don't know if we're ready to truly say this is yours (to one of them), but we want them both to compete and we want both of those guys right now who are taking reps with the ones and the twos to understand that we need them. Whatever way that is, we're going to need them."

Perhaps it is a big step that Fickell acknowledged he'd be fine with both Bauserman and Miller taking reps in the same game, even if all the reps came on meaningful drives.

There are varied opinions on multi-quarterback systems, particularly because timing is such a major aspect in how receivers interact with the ones throwing them the football.

If you ask former NFL head coach John Madden — who became famous later in life for his analysis of professional football — he'd say, "If you have two quarterbacks, you really have none."

But Fickell — and linebackers coach Mike Vrabel — got a close look at how the dual-quarterback system could excel in 1996. Jackson, the quarterback who could make plays with his legs, offered a change of pace from Germaine, one of Ohio State's most prolific passers of the last two decades.

That season Jackson and Germaine had Ohio State on the verge of a national championship, as the Buckeyes cruised through the first 10 games of the season without suffering a loss.

Though the Buckeyes sported as much talent on that team as they've had the last 20 years, they came up short at Michigan — falling to the Wolverines in the final regular season game 13-9 to suffer its only loss on the campaign.

"I didn't think a whole lot about it (the two quarterback system). It is what is best for the team," Fickell remembered. "If you think that's what is best for the team, then that's what you go with."

Perhaps now Fickell doesn't know what quarterback is best for the team or if playing both is what will help his Buckeyes be most successful.

But Thursday he seemed intent on finding out, even if it means extending the competition into the regular season — now just over a week away — and playing both.

"You have to give guys opportunity to see what they'll do in front of a 106,000 and see how they accept that responsibility and I think that's what we might be after."

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