The 2009 version of the Ohio State Buckeyes will have to replace much of the star power which produced one of the most successful four-year runs in the program’s illustrious history.
Led by All-American-caliber players such as James Laurinaitis, Marcus Freeman, and Malcolm Jenkins on defense, and Chris Wells, Brian Robiskie, Alex Boone, and Todd Boeckman on offense, the culminating class racked up an impressive 42-5 regular season record and made four straight BCS appearances. They also beat Michigan all four years—an unprecedented feat for the Scarlet and Grey.
Even still, the unfortunate legacy for this graduating class (and Wells) is that they lost three straight BCS games, including two straight national championships. And in all four years, the only notable teams the Buckeyes beat out of conference were Notre Dame and Texas. Nevertheless, Ohio State almost lived up to its lofty expectations.
2009 will have to replace many of these stars, indeed, but the expectations remain high, as they are expected to be the favorites for the Big Ten title over Penn State and Illinois.
As spring practice rolls on and new athletes emerge as potential leaders of this relatively young team, I will be breaking down each position, examining any position battles, highlighting emerging stars, and any dark horses or freshmen who we might hear about in the fall. For this first installment, let’s examine the quarterbacks…
For much of this prestigious program’s history, the role of the quarterback has been more geared toward the efficient caretaker whose responsibilities are: be accurate, don’t turn the ball over, and don’t trip on your way to handing the ball off to your All-American running back. From Kirk Herbstreit to Joe Germaine, to Steve Bellisari, to Craig Krenzel, the role of the quarterback has been limited by an extremely conservative offense.
In their recent history, talented quarterbacks such as Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and Boeckman have taken an increased role in the offense. And now with a playmaker as gifted as 6’6" 235-pound sophomore Terrelle Pryor, QB may be the most important position on offense.
Look for plays specifically geared toward his abilities. It seems like the days of the “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense may be a thing of the past. There are only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster at this point; much of the focus will be on the clear-cut starter…
1) Terrelle Pryor – sophomore, 6’6” 235 pounds
The catalyst to these continuously high expectations is none other than this prodigal phenom. Whether this claim is fair or not, much of the fate of the ’09 season will depend on how Pryor develops into a multidimensional quarterback.
As a freshman, he electrified stadiums with his elusive speed and effortless acceleration. Natural comparisons to Vince Young have been inevitable. Both men possess similar physical dimensions; both have a distinctive glide where it seems as if everything slows down around them; both also found the opportunity to play and start as freshmen in significant conference games.
Similarities notwithstanding, Pryor has a few distinct characteristics which makes his potential seem astronomical. Specifically, Pryor's ability as a natural thrower is high—even with his awkward throwing motion. TP is also incredibly strong for his position. Once he gains a little more pocket presence, he will be a hard one to bring down in the backfield.
This year, Pryor has the opportunity to expand on his repertoire as a quarterback. He will not just be a situational QB who rarely throws the ball down the field. With a lot of speed at the wide receiver position in DeVier Posey, Lamaar Thomas, Ray Small, and Dane Sanzenbacher, Pryor should get plenty of opportunities to throw the ball deep—especially after being set up by the run game.
For the success of the Buckeyes, it will be paramount to limit the number of hits Pryor takes. This will help lower the risk of potential injury—an important task considering the lack of depth at QB. It is one thing to sacrifice your body on a situational basis, but every play can take its wear and tear out of anyone. Buckeye fans would rather not see TP get hit the way Tim Tebow did every play during his sophomore year.
Once Pryor establishes himself as a more-than-adequate thrower, his dynamic ability will be hard to stop. This is, of course, the big if. We learned last year that he struggled mightily in the pocket in big games against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Texas. We know he'll put up big numbers in the first game against Navy, but we will see when USC comes to Columbus.
2) Joe Bauserman, sophomore, 6'2" 220 pounds
God forbid Pryor injures himself or his wildly ineffective in the pocket, former minor league prospect Joe Bauserman could be a household name in Columbus.
Bauserman walked on to the program as a freshman and has worked his way up the depth chart. He had an impressive spring game in 2008, completing seven of 14 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. Aside from that, his role has been mostly on the scout team.
No matter what any fan will tell you, if Mr. Bauserman is the starting quarterback for Ohio State, the Buckeyes might be in some trouble
Overall, the depth of the quarterbacks is severely lacking. Ohio State was hoping to sign four-star mobile quarterback Tajh Boyd, but he committed to Clemson. Aside from that, Ohio State will have to wait for lightly recruited prospect Kenny Guiton, who comes in the fall, and pray that Pryor stays healthy.