Zwick Excited About Chance To Start

Justin Zwick told reporters Sunday he is looking forward to getting the start at quarterback for Ohio State in Wednesday's Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State (8 p.m., ESPN). Zwick talked about losing the starting job to Troy Smith, who is suspended for this game, as well as rumors he plans to transfer. Plus, we have notes on Todd Boeckman and Albert Dukes.

Justin Zwick let it be known Sunday afternoon that he intends to remain a quarterback at Ohio State. Whether he will again be known as the quarterback at Ohio State, though, remains to be seen.

Zwick, who missed OSU's last five games after suffering a separated shoulder in the Oct. 16 loss at Iowa, will start Wednesday's Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State. Zwick got the nod last week after the university self-imposed a one-game suspension on sophomore Troy Smith, who relieved Zwick and led the Buckeyes to a 4-1 finish.

Prior to the suspension to Smith, rumors had been running rampant that Zwick was considering a transfer.

"Ever since I've been a freshman in high school, those transfer rumors have been following me around," said Zwick, who, ironically, did transfer from Orrville to Massillon Washington after his sophomore season in high school.

"I'm happy where I'm at. Ohio State is a great university with great people. It's a great football family. I'm happy to be here. I'm working hard and doing what I can. Once you've been somewhere for so long, you start to feel comfortable. If you're happy where you're at, there's no point in picking up and moving," he said.

Zwick was asked if he had contacted Division II Ashland, near his home in northeast Ohio, about a possible transfer.

"No, there is absolutely no truth to that," he said.

As noted it has been nearly 2-1/2 months since Zwick last played in a competitive game. But he said the layoff should not make too much of an impact.

"I've been preparing as if I was going to get this opportunity ever since I was injured," Zwick said. "Like Coach says, sometimes people who are hot late in the year, going into the bowl game they may not be as hot. No matter what, if I was playing at the end of the year or not, there would be a time where we wouldn't be playing (before the bowl).

"I just have to come out and rally these guys, lead the offense and put some points on the board."

Zwick said word spread quickly last Monday that Smith had been ruled out of the game.

"Some of our coaches were calling their players and I got a couple of calls (from teammates)," Zwick said. "(Quarterbacks coach Joe) Daniels called me to let me know. I prepare for anything. I'm ready to go and I'm excited about it."

OSU head coach Jim Tressel talked about how Zwick could have more and different weapons at his disposal in this game than what he saw early in the year.

"I'm sure Teddy (Tedd Ginn, Jr.) is way far ahead of where he was when Justin last played with him so I'm sure Justin is excited about that," Tressel said. "Tony Gonzalez wasn't really into the flow back when Justin hung in there every snap. Justin feels very grateful as to the evolution of those kids. We work to get better and I think we're better across the way. And now we have to see how we match up against Oklahoma State and see if we can take one more step."

Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said the offense is not likely to change dramatically as a result of Smith's absence.

"The offense has to have a broad enough scope to take advantage of what's working," Bollman said. "You never know how a game is going to evolve. You have to be prepared for all aspects. A lot of you have a pretty good feel for what we will do if you've watched us throughout the year.

"You like to have a running attack and also keep the ball going vertical. But it's not going to change too much (with Zwick). We are fortunate he's had experience this season that he's had. Along with those receivers developing – some of those younger guys have played more and more.

"I don't think there will be any kind of problems or big changes with him back in the lineup."

Zwick opened the season as OSU's starter, but the Buckeyes went 3-3. Worse yet, he went down with the injury at Iowa.

"On the first series, I took a shot," he said. "I kept telling myself it wasn't anything. But I came in at halftime and it tightened up on me. I started out the second half with it, but it was pretty painful.

"We had some games we lost and then it's topped off with the injury. All of a sudden you start thinking woe is me. But after a couple days, you talk with the family … they've been great. Coach Shep (Rick Shepas), my high school coach, he's been great. Those are people who care about you and after the first couple of days you start to realize what is most important."

As the weeks went by – and Smith was slowly winning the job outright – Zwick found himself on the sidelines.

"It was tough at first," Zwick said. "I started to realize that it's the team that's important. We were doing well at the end of the year. It was exciting to see our guys going out and making plays and having fun and winning ballgames. After you get over the initial period of feeling sorry for yourself, you start to feel good about what the other guys are doing."

Zwick said his brother, Jared, who played quarterback for Tressel at Youngstown State, became a good sounding board.

"I talk to him a lot, almost every day," Zwick said. "He tells me to keep working hard and keep doing what I do and eventually something good is going to happen. That's definitely my feeling right now."

When asked when he felt he could have played again, Zwick said, "Probably the Purdue game. I was probably 80 or 85 percent there at the end of the season. I feel pretty good now. I'm fine. I'm ready to go. It had to heal up. It was like a sprained ankle. It just had to have rest."

As for his plans for his impromptu start against Oklahoma State, Zwick said, "I want to go out and lead the team and get back out there and feel comfortable. I want to have a good game. The most important thing is to come out with a win.

"I need to do what Coach Tressel talks about all the time – not turn the ball over, make good decisions and make big plays. I'm not going to go out and put all kinds of pressure on myself because that's when things go wrong."

Zwick said the OSU offense has undergone a number of changes since he last played, accentuating Smith's running ability, among other things.

"They were doing what was working," Zwick said. "They're going to do whatever they have to do to put points on the board. That's what it's all about. We'll do what we do. Whatever they call is what I'm going to tell the guys and that's what we're going to run. I'm ready to go out there and do what has to be done.

"I'm very excited about it. You come to Ohio State to play in big games. I have that opportunity now and I want to take advantage of it."

The Boeckman Update

Ohio State could find itself in a tough spot if Zwick goes down with an injury. Smith and Zwick have been the only players to take snaps at quarterback for OSU this season. Todd Boeckman, the team's only other scholarship quarterback, is redshirting this year. But the coaches sound like Boeckman would see action if something happened to Zwick – particularly if it happened early in the game against the Cowboys.

That decision would mean the carefully crafted plan for Boeckman to redshirt this year would go by the wayside.

"We've had long discussions on that," Tressel said. "We've thrown out a lot of scenarios. I guess our general feeling would be that if he has to play, I would want Todd to play a whole game or the equivalent of a game. So exactly what scenario is in place, I don't know for sure. We'd like it to be a significant number of snaps and so forth if we're going to spend a year."

The coach was then asked if that means he would sacrifice a tight game to preserve Boeckman's redshirt if Zwick got injured late.

"We will not sacrifice the outcome of the game," Tressel said. "This is an important game for our seniors. Todd Boeckman feels strongly about those kids and if he needs to go into the game and sacrifice a year for them he will."

Bollman also discussed the situation at backup quarterback.

"Some of those plans will need to be finalized here in the last couple of days," Bollman said. "You've been able to redshirt Todd so far and you hope you're able to do that. But it doesn't matter. Whenever you do those kind of things, you have to think of the team first. If the best thing is for the team to win the football game, the best thing is for the team to come first."

Bollman talked about Boeckman's progression and whether he would be ready to play in a game of this magnitude.

"He has worked very hard and progressed a whole lot," Bollman said. "He's in that situation right now where he's been getting a little bit more work with us than before. If duty calls, I'm sure he would be ready."

The only other quarterback taking snaps in bowl practice is walk-on Ben Kacsandi.

"There comes a time when you've got to do what you've got to do," Bollman said. "You plan for everything and you struggle with it, I guess."

Dukes Remains With Squad

Tressel confirmed that freshman wide receiver Albert Dukes remains with the team during Alamo Bowl preparations after he pleaded not guilty to charges he had sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl in his hometown of Belle Glade, Fla., last summer.

Dukes, who is redshirting this year, will practice but not dress for Wednesday's game. He is also being confined, largely, to the team's hotel in downtown San Antonio.

"The posture is he's still here," Tressel said. "We didn't think it was necessary to send him home. He's got restricted privileges here. We're in the midst of learning about a process we are not in control of."

Dukes reportedly faces a Feb. 25 court date in connection with those charges.

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