Quarterback Battle Heats Up

The battle to be the main man under center will likely continue until well into fall camp, and parts of the 2007 season, but Saturday marked the first unofficial unveiling of the Ohio State quarterback candidates.

Boeckman began the scrimmage as the starting quarterback. It was a rather inauspicious start, then, that the first three series in the spring's second jersey scrimmage all resulted in interceptions thrown by the two quarterbacks with game experience in the Scarlet and Gray.

The overall performance of the quarterbacks, who finished with a combined four interceptions, seemed to give head coach Jim Tressel a bit of concern in the immediate aftermath of the scrimmage.

"When you throw four interceptions, you don't have a chance anyway in a scrimmage like this or in a game," he said.

Three of the interceptions were tossed by sophomore Robby Schoenhoft, who was the second quarterback to see playing time after junior Todd Boeckman opened the scrimmage under center.

The lone quarterback to not throw any interceptions also showed the greatest ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands. Redshirt freshman Antonio Henton, who spent time with the first-team offense at times, along with Boeckman and Schoenhoft, was the unofficial offensive leader.

Official statistics were not kept, but Henton finished 5 of 10 for 108 yards and made arguably the play of the scrimmage by using his feet to keep a play alive.

Facing a third-and-two situation from near his own 34-yard line, Henton avoided a safety blitz from classmate Tyler Moeller. Reversing field, he looked upfield and heaved a deep bomb that junior wideout Brian Robiskie came down with near the goal line.

"He got me," Moeller said of Henton. "He got me a couple of times. I got him once, but he got me more than I got him."

Unofficially, the pass went for 60 yards. It came five plays after Henton had evaded a blitz on third and seven and found junior tight end Rory Nicol for an 11-yard pickup.

Several series later, Henton again evaded the pass rush, this time getting around a blitzing Marcus Freeman, and found freshman tailback K.C. Christian in the flat for what would become a 33-yard gain after Christian made a few defenders miss.

The only offensive player made available to the media was tailback Maurice Wells, but junior defensive end Lawrence Wilson said he was impressed by Henton's performance.

"He's quick," Wilson said. "He's deceptive. You come out and you think you have him, but he jukes and runs outside. You've got to contain him, but it's kind of hard."

Henton's performance drew at least whispered comparisons to the play of departed starter Troy Smith.

"He's like a younger version of Troy, kind of, because of the way he's quick and the way he can step out of (the pocket)," Wilson said. "He feels the pressure very well, but with the way he steps out, that's kind of like what Troy would do."

Not everything went Henton's way, however. He fumbled after being hit by redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, which resulted in a 20-yard loss. During his second series, he attempted to throw the ball away with his back to the line of scrimmage while being sacked by several defenders.

"He had a couple of plays where he sparked us, and then he had a couple of plays where he's got to stay in his pocket," Tressel said.

After completing his first three passes for a combined 19 yards, Boeckman's pass intended for sophomore Ray Small glanced off the Cleveland Glenville alumnus' hands and was grabbed by Donald Washington, who finished the scrimmage with two of the team's four interceptions.

Four plays later, Schoenhoft tossed his first pick intended for junior Albert Dukes in what would be a long afternoon for the signal-caller.

Schoenhoft was 5 of 18 for 34 yards and Boeckman finished 6 of 17 for 49 yards against a defense Tressel admitted was designed to be bringing heat for much of the scrimmage.

Of the four interceptions, the head coach said two of them were balls "that we shouldn't have thrown."

"I think there were times when they let their mechanics fail them," Tressel said. "They weren't as in control with what they'd like to do, but then all of a sudden they didn't fall apart, which was a good thing."

Still, if the Buckeyes' season-opener was this weekend, Tressel said Boeckman would get the starting nod, although he declined to name him his No. 1 quarterback.

"If we had a game tomorrow I'd start Todd, but I'd know that I'd probably have some other guys get some opportunities just like we will in the first week and the second week, probably, and the third week, probably.

"We've got to have a guy emerge. I know we'd like to christen someone, but we've got to (have them) emerge."

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