Although freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor is 4-0 as a starter and senior backup Todd Boeckman said he is in Pryor's corner, the possibility of having both quarterbacks see game action has been a topic of discussion as the Buckeyes prepare to head to Michigan State this Saturday.
As the starter, Pryor has completed 41 of 62 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns against two interceptions. However, four of those touchdowns came in his first start and the OSU offense has struggled from a consistency standpoint since, going without scoring a touchdown against Purdue in week seven.
Throughout it all, head coach Jim Tressel has insisted that he has a plan for getting Boeckman into game action. That plan has not seen him take a snap in either of the last two games.
"(We) haven't determined that that was the right moment, situation," the coach said. "You'll know the moment when it happens. I'm being honest with you."
The prevailing thought is that Boeckman's experience might help jumpstart a unit that ranks 10th in the Big Ten in total offense. As the starter last season, Boeckman threw for the fifth-highest single-season passing total in school history. But as soon as OSU landed Pryor, the nation's No. 1 prep prospect, Boeckman's days as the starter were numbered.
Following the team's 35-3 defeat at the hands of USC in week three – a game where Boeckman and Pryor split snaps on a play-by-play basis – Tressel announced that the two would split snaps 50-50 during practice leading up to the Troy game. The actual number had Pryor taking a greater portion of the practice reps, and as a result Boeckman said he was not surprised to see the freshman take the starting job that weekend.
After his freshman-record four-touchdown performance, it appeared Pryor had firmly latched onto the job and that Boeckman would be relegated to mop-up duty for the remainder of the season. But as the offense has struggled and Pryor has experienced some growing pains, teammates are starting to wonder if Boeckman would be able to give the offense a needed shot in the arm.
"He's doing a great job in practice and if he were thrown into a game he'd step right back in there," senior left tackle Alex Boone said. "He's the rock. It would be great to see him back in there."
However, Boone stopped short of saying that Boeckman should be put into the game, deferring that decision to the coaching staff instead.
Adding to the possibility is the fact that the two are clearly proficient at doing different things during a game. OSU quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels has described Boeckman's touch on the deep ball as among the best he has ever coached, while Pryor is a more talented overall athlete who can turn broken plays into big gains by using his speed to create.
Tressel stopped short of saying he had any misgivings about making the decision to replace Boeckman with Pryor, but added that he feels the senior will still be called on to contribute in a key situation this season.
"We have to assume there's going to be a moment where he is going to be back in the game and it's going to be huge for us," he said.
Boeckman said he is preparing for such a situation, but again what situation that might be is uncertain. Against USC, using both quarterbacks helped the Buckeyes march down the field and put together their best drive of the game.
That sort of success has junior tight end Jake Ballard thinking seeing both Boeckman and Pryor taking snaps could help the team.
"I think a two-quarterback system wouldn't be a bad idea," he said. "Todd is a great leader, a great player. If he came into the game I think he could help out a lot, but I also think Terrelle is a good quarterback too. They bring different things to the table."
Pryor has not been made available for interviews during the week, but Boeckman said he is in favor of what is best for the team. Making a switch from a senior to a freshman quarterback on a veteran team mid-season could put a coach in danger of losing his team's upperclassmen, but Boeckman said he has tried to quiet any unrest on the roster.
"Some guys here and there will maybe say ‘you could've done this' or ‘you could've done that,' but I just keep on telling them Terrelle keeps winning," the senior captain said. "He's 4-0. You can't complain about that or argue about that."
And yet, here we are, seven weeks into the season with an OSU offense that is still trying to find an identity and plenty to argue about – including about who should be the man under center.
"I think it would only help," Ballard said of the potential two-quarterback system. "The senior leadership that Todd brings to the table and how he commands the huddle would definitely help us out and then he could make some big throws for us. Terrelle can make some big throws for us too, but he can also help us with running the ball. I don't think a two-quarterback system would be a bad idea."