Zwick Confident As Season Opener Approaches

Junior Justin Zwick will make his eighth career start as the quarterback at Ohio State as the Buckeyes host Miami (Ohio) in Saturday's season opener (12:10 p.m., ABC). Zwick said he is over his ankle sprain and is not looking over his shoulder at Troy Smith or anybody else. Click here for more.

For Justin Zwick, Saturday's Ohio State season opener with Miami (Ohio) could be his last and best chance to prove he should be the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes.

Zwick will be making his eighth career start as OSU hosts Miami (12:10 p.m., ABC regional telecast). He started the first six games of last season before going down with a shoulder injury. Then, as he rehabbed that injury, he watched as Troy Smith led the Buckeyes to a 4-1 regular season finish.

But when Smith was ruled ineligible for the Alamo Bowl after receiving illegal extra benefits from an OSU booster, Zwick returned to the field and led the Buckeyes to the win over Oklahoma State.

Smith must still serve the second of a two-game NCAA-imposed suspension, meaning Zwick has the floor on Saturday to make his case before Smith returns to the fold in time for preparations for the Sept. 10 showdown with No. 2-ranked Texas.

But Zwick, who missed some of preseason camp with an ankle injury, said he does not feel the pressure to impress anybody on Saturday.

"I'm not really worried about going out and making a statement," Zwick said. "I just want to go out and play my game. We just have to get the W for our team and continue to grow."

Zwick arrived at OSU from storied Massillon Washington High School. He spent his first two seasons on the bench behind Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen before opening last year as a starter. Now, as a fourth-year junior, Zwick believes he is ready emotionally and physically for this chance.

"It is a little bit different than last year," Zwick said. "Last year was my first year going through this and being possibly the starting quarterback at Ohio State. Having that under my belt makes this easier. I'm a little more relaxed and not worrying about it. I'm just going out there in practice and trying to make myself better and make my team better."

Zwick maintains that he is not going to be looking over his shoulder Saturday.

"When you come to a place like Ohio State, you're going to have guys pushing you and people wanting your spot," he said. "That's something you have to deal with. That helps everybody when they have somebody pushing them. I've just faded that out and not worried about it.

"If they need me to have a real big game to win the game Saturday, that's what I'll do. Hopefully, we'll have a balanced attack and go in there and score a bunch of points and come out with the W. That's what the most important thing is."

Zwick said he is close to 100 percent.

"Yeah, I'm ready to go," he said. "I have a brace that they gave me that is pretty sturdy. It's a brace to prevent this from happening again. It keeps your ankle in there tight.

"I keep a pressure wrap on it at all times to keep the swelling around the ankle bone out of there. The color is pretty much gone. I had a little bit of bruising. That's pretty much gone now."

OSU coach Jim Tressel would have liked for Zwick to have gone through all of preseason camp. But, at the same time, he sees progress in Zwick's game.

"I thought Justin was having a lot of really good practices right before he turned the ankle, and that's a shame," Tressel said. "You just hate for guys to miss practice. Because in the course of a preseason, you can see guys improve by the day. He knows what we're doing. He's smart as can be.

"I thought he was really getting comfortable throwing the football around and doing what we were doing. Then you have a little detour with an injury and you rehab and go through it and try to stay in it mentally, which he did, and now he's back at it."

Tressel sees a confidence in Zwick that may not have been there before.

"I think Justin has got an air of, `Hey, I know I can get this done. I've had opportunities. I've learned from my opportunities, and I was out for a while and then I had another opportunity,' and so I think there is just a little bit more deep-down confidence," Tressel said. "You have to experience things before you really know that you can handle it. I think he's just further along.

"You know when you're a fourth-year guy, you've seen umpteen situations of guys at every position that have been doing very, very well, and then didn't or never you heard from again or maybe had some problems or you thought you might not hear from them again and here they are playing great football. So I think you put all that aside when you're a little more mature, which I think he is."

Tressel told reporters he expects that redshirt freshman Todd Boeckman would spell Zwick at some point on Saturday. Zwick said that was only fair.

"They did that when I was there," Zwick said. "When Troy and I were redshirt freshmen, they threw us in the game. That's just something you have to do to get that guy some experience. You have to have guys ready to go."

Center Nick Mangold believes Zwick can handle this assignment.

"I think we're as confident with him as we are with Boeckman and as we are with (Rob) Schoenhoft and as we are with Troy," Mangold said. "The quarterbacks have been doing a great job going from the summer to the fall and all of them have taken on that leadership."

Split end Santonio Holmes – Zwick's favorite target early last year – also believes Zwick is ready to lead the offense.

"I think he'll do great," Holmes said. "He's more experienced a year ago. He has played a lot and he is more comfortable with the guys he has around him.

"I just want those quarterbacks to feel comfortable with us and just get out there and make plays. They need to know we have their backs no matter what. It doesn't matter what quarterback is out there with us."

Zwick understands that Miami, though an MAC team, will be no pushover.

"We know they have been in a lot of tough games," Zwick said. "Coach (John) Peterson used to coach down there. He said they have a wall full of tomahawks. When they go in and knock off a big team or a ranked team, they put another tomahawk up on the wall. We know the tradition they have. They've been in this situation before and we expect a great game out of them."


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