Daniels Enjoys QB Competition

What will happen with Ohio State's quarterback situation this season? Three players are vying for the starting job and they all bring something different to the table. We caught up with quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels for his thoughts on the competition. We also have comments from freshman Todd Boeckman.

Ohio State quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels has seen a little bit of everything during his career.

Therefore, he doesn't view OSU's quarterback battle as a problem. He looks at it in a positive light. He says Troy Smith, Justin Zwick and Todd Boeckman all have a shot at the job and he wouldn't want it any other way.

"Yes, I like it," Daniels said. "I love the competition aspect of it, because I think it's going to bring out the best of all three of them. I've always liked that.

"Now, when I was at Pitt, somebody to challenge (Dan) Marino, that wasn't going to happen. But that's a whole different ballgame. But I like the competition factor. I like the idea that they've got to perform every day and they're evaluated every day in that vein, because I think it makes them better."

Based on his play at the end of the 2004 season, many feel that Smith will eventually regain the starting position. Daniels says that Smith has made vast improvements over the last few seasons. He is no longer an "athlete" playing quarterback. He's a quarterback.

"His ability of when to use his talent, that in itself is important," Daniels said. "He always knew he could run; he's got a lot of confidence in his legs. But I think now, he's got a better feel of when to do that and when to get the ball downfield. I really thought he threw the ball pretty well at the end of the year. I mean, he was throwing the ball pretty well to where it should be for the most part."

The big concern about Smith from some OSU fans revolves around off-the-field transgressions. But Daniels does not seem overly concerned about that.

"Oh, I think there's a maturity process," he said. "Just being around here, being around Ohio State and being around the people that he's around, I think there's going to be a maturing thing. We always hope it's positive. I think with him, I think it's very positive. The most important thing is that he's headed in the right direction, which I think he is."

Daniels was asked if either Smith or Zwick were "national championship caliber" quarterbacks.

"Today? No," he replied. "Do I think they can do it? Yeah, I do. So, what I'm saying is that they've got some work to do and we're heading in that direction of it's all got to click. But, you know what, if you would have asked me the same question (three) springs ago about Craig Krenzel, I probably would have said, ‘No.' But you know what I'm saying – it's to be determined. But I'm thinking they are headed towards that direction."

Zwick will most likely start the Miami game over Boeckman. But Daniels says there has been no discussions about which QB will start game two against Texas (Smith will be suspended for the opener for accepting money from a booster).

"No, believe me, we have not discussed it," he said. "We have no clue. If you guys want to speculate on it, go ahead. But we haven't even talked about it."

A reporter mentioned to Daniels that head coach Jim Tressel has hinted that Smith might be the starter when he comes back.

"Hey, Tress might have completely different thoughts in his mind completely, which is fine," Daniels said. "He's the head coach. He's certainly allowed to that. But, we haven't discussed it.

"If all things were equal, if all things progressed in a positive way and the 15 days (of spring practice) and the 29 days (of preseason camp) that Tress talks about, they all came out this way, then yeah, I probably would say that Troy probably would be (the starter) based on last season, because of the way he finished. But, we haven't talked about it. I don't even want to talk about yet. I'm a believer that I've got to wait and see, or else why practice? Why do we have spring practice, or why do we have fall camp?"

Daniels said that Zwick earned a lot of respect for his gutsy performance in the 33-7 Alamo Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.

"I think the bowl game, I think it proved something to himself, but I also think it proved something to his teammates, and to us too," Daniels said. "I think he did a heck of a job in the bowl game, as far as the whole environment of it. The one thing you didn't want happen (a Zwick injury), happened early in the first quarter. The ‘what ifs' drove us crazy leading up to it and there it was in the first quarter. I think he did a lot for himself mentally and I think he did a lot for himself with the team. I think they react to him pretty good now."

Daniels was asked how many reps Ted Ginn will get at quarterback this spring.

"Probably about as many as he's got so far: none," he said. "We put that (Alamo Bowl) offense in in a week and that was a ‘what if.' What if Justin got hurt and we're trying to save Todd's redshirt year. OK, so we put Teddy in and we made a little package for him. But, you know what, it looked so good, that we were thinking, ‘You know what, maybe we ought to do this anyway, even if he doesn't get hurt.' Well, he winds up getting hurt, so we did it right away."

And Ginn can do more than just run from the quarterback position.

"Yeah, he can throw," Daniels said. "If you ask him, we should have thrown every time out of that."

Daniels has been impressed with the progression of Boeckman – a player who is entering his third freshman season (thanks to a grayshirt in 2003, followed up by a redshirt in 2004).

"Todd has done a good job since he's been here and he gets better all the time," Daniels said. "He's going to push those guys this year and he has a bright future here."

* Boeckman is feeling good this spring, but there are some specific things he is working on.

"Right now, I think I definitely need to work on my footwork," Boeckman said. "I need to improve on that because you've got to get back there and you've got to be quick, you've got to be smart, you've got to know what to do."

"But right now, I'm reading the defenses a lot better. I know a lot better where to put the ball. Better reads, where to get to get it to them and help them out."

The 6-5, 230-pound Boeckman is seeing a lot of different defenses this spring.

"You've got to be a pretty smart quarterback out there, because all the defenses that they're throwing at you now, it's just tough," Boeckman said. "They're not just playing a straight man-to-man defense anymore. They've got cover fours and sixes, there's just a lot more thinking now."

But Boeckman would have it no other way.

"Oh definitely," he said. "You have to see a lot of everything. They can't play just one defense going into a game because you know they're going to figure it out and you have to switch it up."

The young quarterback smiles when asked about OSU's talented wide receivers.

"It's amazing," he said. "Guys like Ted Ginn, Tony Gonzalez, Santonio Holmes, Roy Hall… I could go on and on. Just down the line, it's unbelievable. They've got the speed and the skill and the athleticism that these guys bring to the table is just something special."

If the Buckeyes use a lot of four-wide sets, it could mean less playing time for the tight ends. But Boeckman thinks the tight ends will factor into the plans.

"I think we've got some skilled tight ends," he said. "We've got Ryan Hamby and Rory Nicol and Marcel Frost is coming up too. He's been injured the last couple years, but he's definitely stepping up. I think we are going to use our tight ends a fair share this year. Even though we have the athleticism that we do at the receiver spot, but I think our tight ends are going to play a big part in our offense this year."

Boeckman is a competitor. He knows he is the underdog when compared to Smith and Zwick, but he is still preparing himself to be the starter.

"Oh definitely," he said. "You've got to go into every year knowing that you think you have a chance to play. If you don't, I don't even know why you should be here. You come here to play in Ohio Stadium. That's a dream for almost every little kid that has been in the state of Ohio.

"But I'm just coming in here – Justin and Troy are great players and they're smart, they're athletic, they're talented – but I'm just trying to push them and hopefully someday I'll be a starter.

"But I definitely want to be out there. I just want to show and prove to everybody that I can play too. I just want to get out and just show what I can do and hopefully someday I will."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories