Backup QB Battle Has Heated Up

Coming into the spring, one could have made a fair argument that Antonio Henton was Ohio State's clear backup quarterback as the lone returning reserve with experience. However, spring is a time of change, and the backup quarterback situation has turned into a tight battle as the practice window nears a close.

With spring practice nearly complete, about the only way to tell the progress of the Ohio State backup quarterbacks apart has been the fact that Antonio Henton was drafted above Joe Bauserman in Wednesday's spring game draft.

Even that provides a skewed perspective, as the presence of only three quarterbacks on the OSU roster means that some swapping will have to take place between the two reserves.

The word from those interviewed throughout much of camp has been that the two were about even in their work behind starter Todd Boeckman. In both Friday's practice and Saturday's jersey scrimmage, both of which were open to the media, the two split action among the reserve units, showing that the talk of camp when it comes to the quarterback spot wasn't just blown smoke.

"It's a daily battle," said acting quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano. "We evaluate them every day, and right now they're neck and neck."

That battle takes on an added importance because of a shadow that looms large over the quarterback position. Arriving in June is Terrelle Pryor, Scout's No. 1 prospect of 2008, and many observers – including Pryor himself – expect the Jeannette, Pa., product to slip into a backup role that will see him included in a number of packages that take advantage of his lethal combination of passing and running ability.

However, while head coach Jim Tressel said he's sure Henton and Bauserman are aware of the hype surrounding Pryor, he pushed aside thoughts that the two must be pressing in an effort to impress the coaches during the final Pryor-less practices.

"That makes sense, but I don't know that they have time to do that," Tressel said. "There's so much they're trying to learn, and I don't know that could even creep into their thinking when Doug Worthington and Todd Denlinger are chasing you and you're trying to do checkoffs and you're trying to do this and that."

As such, the focus during this spring camp has been on bringing along the two who have taken quite differing paths on their way to donning the scarlet and gray.

"As far as I'm concerned," Siciliano said, "you need as many good quarterbacks as you can have on a football team because you're always one play away from putting the next guy in."

Henton had the lead at differing points of last season. The Georgian had moved past Rob Schoenhoft as Ohio State's No. 2 quarterback early last season, completing 3 of 6 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, before being suspended after the Northwestern game following charges of alleged solicitation.

He eventually came off the suspension and was one of the major topics of interest the week before the BCS National Championship Game when the Ohio State coaching staff said Henton might factor into the team's plans as a change of pace option depending on the flow of the game.

Though Henton did not play in the game, his emergence might have helped contribute to Schoenhoft's decision to move on to Delaware.

As for Bauserman, the former pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and current walk-on was the fourth quarterback in 2007 but announced his presence while Ohio State was preparing to face LSU in the national title game.

"He really had a good bowl practice," Tressel said. "He really showed a lot, we thought, in that 15 or so practices there in December, so no, I'm not surprised that it's a little bit of a battle."

Not much illumination was shed on the battle during the April 12 jersey scrimmage. Both led nine drives, splitting time with the second and third offenses. Henton completed 7 of 16 passes for just 27 yards and a touchdown, while Bauserman was 4 of 9 for 18 yards.

Neither was helped out by a patchwork offensive line unit that often had to battle defensive starters, nor by a wideouts unit devastated by injuries that left walk-ons to comprise the second and third units. Each was live and forced to scramble often, with Henton picking up 9 yards on two carries and Bauserman finishing with 8 yards on 11 carries, including five sacks.

Afterward, Tressel described the showing of each to be average.

"The biggest thing when you haven't played as much is understanding situations," he added. "We sometimes say your best throw of the day is the one you throw into the stands, and that's hard for a young guy who's just trying to figure things out."

While the jersey scrimmage numbers were not overwhelming, the talk about the full of camp has been that each has made progress compared to where they started. Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who has had a front row seat to watch each from the sideline, seemed impressed with the repertoire of each.

"I actually feel like they've been making a lot more throws than they have been," Jenkins said.

Now that they are fairly equal in their standing, the two have gone through spring living under the "competition is good" maxim that seems to highlight every position during the springtime.

"They're both working their butts off," Siciliano said. "They're both asking a lot of questions. They want to get better and that's what's important."

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