Though no one would ever complain being a scholarship athlete at a Division I university, Bauserman came to Ohio State's fall camp each year knowing he was nothing more than an understudy. His only playing time would come either in mop-up duty or in the case of calamity.
In fact, Bauserman got only 47 passes attempts in 39 games over three seasons after his redshirt year, and holding a clipboard can be interesting only for so long.
But when three-year starter Terrelle Pryor left Ohio State during the offseason, suddenly the path to playing time was thrust wide open.
Teammates immediately noticed a difference in the 25-year-old signal caller and former professional baseball pitcher.
"If anything, I've seen Joe working a lot harder," center Michael Brewster said as offseason workouts drew to a close. "I'm sure it was a hard time being behind Terrelle when you're an older guy and you know Terrelle is going to be the starter. He's really brought his workouts to a new level."
That extra hard work has paid off. One week out from Ohio State's season opener vs. Akron, Bauserman appears to be in the driver's seat when it comes to being the starting quarterback for that contest.
After starting the year as one of four contestants for the job, Bauserman joins true freshman Braxton Miller as the two men standing, and the senior's outstanding camp has turned heads at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
"It's a little different when you have a light at the end of the tunnel for anybody," said quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano, adding that Bauserman has had his best camp while at OSU. "Joe sees that light and he's preparing well. He's been playing well through camp. I think (he's improved in) everything. He's increased his urgency in everything he's done. It's really been a good thing for the team to see Joe practice the way he's been practicing."
Bauserman's improvement has even caught the eye of head coach Luke Fickell, whose choice of starting quarterback could go down as the defining decision of the 2011 season.
"I think he's doing a great job," Fickell said. "I think the biggest thing is his confidence. That shows in the huddle as well as just emotionally. He's been pretty solid."
Taking the ball and running with it was Bauserman's hope when he got to camp, and he'd never been in a similar situation. He arrived the year the patient Todd Boeckman finally ascended to the starting role, taking a redshirt as the starter directed Ohio State to the precipice of the national championship.
Then Bauserman watched as Ohio State won the sweepstakes for the services of Pryor, who emerged as the starting quarterback by the fourth week of his college career and held the job for three seasons.
As such, one can see why Bauserman came to Ohio State's 2011 camp with a new lease on life.
"It's a different perspective when you come to camp and you know it's an open spot and you have a chance to win it," said Bauserman, who as of Photo Day last Sunday had added a new look as well with a neatly trimmed beard. "You definitely come out here with more of an attitude."
Bauserman added the increased reps in practice have helped. He began camp as the first signal caller to get reps in each drill – just as he did in spring when Pryor was out with a foot injury – and as a result has seen the most work with the No. 1 unit as any point his career.
"It's great," he said. "You get the timing of the receivers, you get the feel of the line, you just kind of know where everybody's going to be and it just works out a lot better."
His hope is to improve after an up-and-down career. Bauserman struggled his first two seasons, going 11 for 25, before completing 16 of 22 passes (72.7 percent) a year ago and throwing his first two touchdown passes. At the same time, he struggled in his one cameo in a tight game, throwing a third-quarter interception among his two passes after Pryor was injured at Illinois.
Bauserman thinks he brings the attributes to be successful now in a full-time role.
"I feel like I want to be consistent," he said. "I feel like I can make a lot of plays, make all the throws. I hope I can run the offense as well as they want me to."
His teammates and coaches feel he has a chance. Zach Boren said earlier this fall he'd seen Bauserman making passes he never has, while offensive coordinator Jim Bollman is impressed.
"He has a really good arm, he has a quick release and like anyone else, the more and more work he gets, the better and better he gets," Bollman said. "He's working at it. He's doing well. You can see it on film. You can see it at practice. Guys are getting balls with good accuracy and timing and all of those things we're looking for. He's doing a good job."
Bauserman wouldn't go as far as to say he'd be disappointed if he didn't get a major chance to shine in 2011. Though it appears he will get that shot, Bauserman is happy to have left it all on the practice field no matter what the outcome is in a week's time.
"I came into camp and I wanted to do the best I could, put everything out there, and that's all I could do," Bauserman said. "I can't do anything other than that, and whatever happens, happens."