Tressel: 'We have two starting quarterbacks'

There is no doubt which quarterback the Texas coaches plan to line up behind center when the Longhorns stampede into Ohio State's Horseshoe this weekend. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have "two starting quarterbacks" and plan to use both of them, head coach Jim Tressel confirmed Tuesday.

Senior quarterback Justin Zwick contributed a generally solid performance in last weekend's 34-14 victory over Miami of Ohio, but Buckeye coaches intend to split playing time between Zwick and quarterback Troy Smith.

Smith, who missed last year's bowl game and this season's opening contest as punishment for accepting money from a booster, was far too impressive in his eight games last year to be overlooked in Saturday's game plan, even though the junior has not seen game-day action since mid-November.

"Troy's performance in the '04 season, his performance in the spring and his performance in preseason warrants him deserving to play," said Tressel.

Tressel refrained from naming one of the signalcallers as a starter but did share his plan to grant both players fairly equal playing time, and according to Tressel, a two-headed quarterback system is a good thing.

"I'd say we have two starting quarterbacks," the Ohio State head coach said, "and I think it's a luxury."

Both passers bring something different to the table. Zwick, cut in the mold of a classic pocket passer, can pick defenses apart with his arm. As the more experienced quarterback donning the Scarlet and Gray, Zwick out-dueled Smith last season to earn the top spot on the depth chart and quickly delivered OSU a 3-0 record before the Buckeyes dropped the next three games. After injuring his shoulder against Iowa, the mobile Smith then took the field and orchestrated the offense to help the Buckeyes win five of their remaining six of games, including a 37-21 win over rival Michigan.

Whether it is the sit-back-and-pass attack of Zwick or the throw-on-the-go style of Smith, Texas players and coaches plan to make note of who is lining up against them.

"We have to be aware which one is on the field at all times," said Texas defensive end Tim Crowder. "When they have a different player out there, they run different plays."

According to Texas Head coach Mack Brown, preparing for the quarterback change-up is not easy.

"It's a challenge this week to try to figure out how to defend the two different types of quarterbacks," said Brown.

The fact that Texas is being forced to anticipate game-time adjustments is what Tressel believes gives the Buckeyes an edge.

"I like having guys that they have to take a special look at because I think that helps us," said Tressel. "The beauty of anytime someone does something different within their package toward one phase of your game is that it's going to open up other things."

In particular, Smith can bring a change of pace to a ballgame that forces defenses to wake up and get on their toes, but facing this type of mobile passer is nothing new to Texas.

"We face a great, mobile QB in Vince Young every day in practice, so we aren't going to game plan differently for Smith," said Texas cornerback Cedric Griffin.


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