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Friday, April 15, 2011

Four battling for Ohio State QB job - Tressel, Buckeyes busy with task at hand - Dale Jr.'s winless streak reaches 100

Tressel, Buckeyes busy with task at hand
By Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There will be a time when Jim Tressel has to give up the thing all coaches covet: control.
It might not be until Sept. 3, the date Tressel begins serving a five-game suspension for violating NCAA rules and won't join his Ohio State team at Ohio Stadium for the opener against Akron. It might happen sooner, if the NCAA decides to impose stronger penalties on the coach that would prohibit him from performing his regular duties.
But Tressel isn't ready to enter that realm yet. If he's concerned about his uncertain future, one he can't control, he's not showing it.
"I really haven't given it much thought," Tressel told ESPN.com after a recent spring practice. "I've always tried not to think too much about things I don't have any control over, and obviously that's one of them. It's been a little different, but in our world you're so busy.
"You don't have much time to think about what's different."
Things will be different for Ohio State this season.
Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor are participating fully in spring practice but will miss the first five games of the season.The Buckeyes will be without five players -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four other starters -- for the first five games because of NCAA violations. Tressel's self-imposed suspension for not coming forward with information about players' violations will keep him off the sideline for the same span. Luke Fickell, the team's co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, will handle the head-coaching duties for the first time in his career while Tressel sits.
And there's the looming NCAA investigation that could bring potentially crippling penalties for a program that can only be described as dominant during Tressel's tenure.
"People from the outside will look and say, 'Oh, let's see how they handle this,'" Fickell said.
The Big Ten's flagship program, a team that has won or shared the past six conference titles and claimed back-to-back BCS bowl victories, is facing its greatest challenge in recent memory.
Will the great Scarlet and Gray tower come tumbling down in 2011?
"I'm sure they would want that," senior defensive end Nathan Williams said of the Buckeyes' adversaries. "We're six-time Big Ten champions, and you've got every single Big Ten team looking to take you off the top of the mountain.
"We're not going to let that happen."
Tressel still has control of the squad this spring, and the coach isn't wasting a nanosecond.
He buzzed around the field during a practice last week, lining up as a defensive back during one sequence and mixing it up with players before providing instruction. Ohio State must replace 24 seniors and prepare for the early season absences of Pryor and others, so Tressel has plenty to occupy his mind this spring.
"It's like nothing ever happened," center Mike Brewster said. "We know there's adversity ahead of us, but like [Tressel] told me the other day, 'There's fun in the challenge of it. I believe in you guys.' Just like we believe in him. There's a mutual respect like, 'Together, we can do this.'"
According to Fickell, Tressel doesn't discuss his future with the staff.
"He's a rock," Fickell said. "When times are tough, it's almost like he raises his level. He doesn't show it; he doesn't look for any pity. You wouldn't know there was any different situation inside this bubble. It's been pretty much business as usual."
Some could argue Tressel is in denial. Maybe the future is too daunting to think about.
How tough is it not knowing what's ahead?
"What's the alternative?" Tressel countered.
What about that first game? How tough will it be to stay away?
"I don't know," he replied. "I'm going to be a beginner at that. I haven't started preparing for that, either, because we've got work to do."
Ohio State's personnel situation has served as one heck of a distraction for Tressel and his staff this spring.
The coaches are evaluating a group of quarterbacks that includes only two players with game experience (Joe Bauserman and Kenny Guiton) and a combined 49 career pass attempts. DeVier Posey's suspension leaves Ohio State without any proven receivers. The Buckeyes also are looking to replace All-Big Ten players at left tackle (Mike Adams) and running back (Dan Herron) for the first five games.
Seven starters depart on defense and Solomon Thomas, a possible starter at defensive end, is part of the suspended group. Fickell noted that the defense loses 1,100 of its 1,400 production points from last season.
Opportunities are out there, and Ohio State is confident it can reload one more time.
"We're Ohio State," Williams said. "We recruit good players and they're capable of stepping in."
Ohio State will need to be a player-driven team in 2011, especially with its head coach missing for games against Akron, Toledo, Miami, Colorado and Michigan State. Veterans such as Brewster and Williams will do their part on Saturdays, and Tressel has repeatedly pointed out that the five suspended players aren't shirking their responsibilities in practice.
"Not that I didn't think they would, but when you have some disappointment the natural tendency is to sit back and maybe feel bad for yourself," Tressel said. "But those guys have been extraordinary. Human nature could have been that one withdraws. But they sure haven't."
Neither has their coach.
Brewster entered the spring thinking the team simply needed to find a way to survive the first five games. His view since has changed.
"I'm seeing that we can really do this," he said. "Seeing how guys are responding, I've been really, really impressed.
"Our focus can't be to survive. Our focus has to be to win."

Four battling for Ohio State QB job
Bauserman will start cause Cheater, I meant Tressel always plays the older kids. Bauserman is not the best qb on the roster experienced or not. Guiton and Miller should easily be the starter cause all the Buckeyes need to do the first 5 games is run the ball. I can't see Bauserman doing that very well. Look at his running backs! It's very clear that Berry and the younger backs were much better than Saine and Boom, but they watched from the sidelines. Hopefully Tressel will be gone by then.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- It's a typical spring practice at Ohio State and yet nothing seems typical about it.
Over near a sideline, Terrelle Pryor, the three-year starter at quarterback, is balanced on one knee, playing catch with a teammate. Coach Jim Tressel is no more than a few feet away and is watching him toss the ball, over and over and over again.
Thirty yards away, four other quarterbacks are taking their turns running the offense. Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller alternate snaps in a drill with just three receivers matching up with defenders.
One of the four will be well known to Buckeyes' fans soon enough. But on this April day, with a torrent of rain visible through an open door at the Woody Hayes indoor practice field, they're just four guys trying to learn the plays and catch a coach's eye.
With Pryor skipping spring workouts due to surgery, and suspended for the first five games this fall, somebody is going to win the starting job. Right now, however, no one has any idea who has the inside track.
"It is critical by the end of 15 (spring) practices that we do start thinking about some sort of a pecking order," Tressel said.
The problem is, he doesn't have one right now.
"To me, that's a great question."
Pryor isn't playing this spring after having postseason foot surgery. He's no longer wearing a protective boot and appears healthy enough to take snaps. But, he's not taking any contact this month, even though his presence looms over workouts. He counsels the other signal callers, stands maybe 10 yards behind them while they run plays with the full first-team offense and trades comments continually with Tressel.
Baby steps have been taken. Early on, the four potential replacements couldn't get a snap without dropping it.
"The first couple of days, there was a fumbled snap here and there. But ever since, we've kind of got a comfort level with all the quarterbacks," center Mike Brewster said. "Now, no matter who's in, it's really not affecting our play."
Pryor, once the most acclaimed quarterback recruit in the country, will also miss the first five games of his final season as he serves an NCAA-mandated suspension after it was discovered he and several teammates had received improper benefits from the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor.
So Bauserman, Guiton, Taylor or Miller will likely hold the hopes of the 2011 Buckeyes in their hands at least until Pryor makes his season debut on Oct. 8 at Nebraska.
"It's going to be fun to watch," Tressel said of the quarterback sweepstakes before spring practices even began. "I'm going to have as much fun watching as you (reporters) are - as to who's going to step up and emerge."

- Bauserman (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) is a fifth-year senior who pitched for three seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Majoring in fisheries and wildlife, he'll turn 26 this fall. He has the most game experience of the four, with 47 passes thrown (completing 25) in 24 career games. He has a good arm, limited mobility and some would say he's decent at all and outstanding at none of the skills it takes to be a quarterback.

- Guiton (6-2, 195) is a redshirt sophomore who can run in addition to throw. Ohio State coaches like his awareness in the pocket. He's only thrown two college passes - one was completed, one intercepted - but might have the edge coming out of spring drills because the Buckeyes, with heavy losses at wide receiver, figure to stay on the ground more early in the year.

- Graham (6-4, 230) is the son of former Ohio State quarterback Kent Graham, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL. His son is a redshirt freshman who is a prototypical pocket passer. He's tall enough to see over the line and has a strong arm.
- Miller (6-3, 205) graduated from high school early so he could come to campus in January and practice this spring. An acclaimed recruit like Pryor, a better comparison to his style of play would be former Buckeye Troy Smith. Still learning the vagaries of footwork, checkoffs and progressions, he's a work in project who the coaching staff believes has a big upside.

"If he keeps making plays there's no reason why (he couldn't start)," lineman J.B. Shugarts said. "If he's the guy, he's the guy. The best quarterback is going to play."
But don't expect any decisions any time soon. Tressel, who also must sit out the first five games for hiding the fact he knew about his players' involvement with the tattoo-shop owner, isn't in any hurry to anoint a starter until preseason workouts in August.
"Until we get to the fall," he said, "you can't put the total onus on the quarterbacks' performance."

Dale Jr.'s winless streak reaches 100

FORT WORTH, Texas -- The winless streak for Dale Earnhardt Jr. has reached 100 races.

A week after a runner-up finish at Martinsville, where he led until being passed by Kevin Harvick with four laps to go, Earnhardt had another strong run. But he finished ninth at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.

Earnhardt last won in June 2008 at Michigan, his only win so far in 115 starts for Rick Hendrick. That win in his first season with Hendrick ended a 76-race winless streak.

Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson has won three consecutive Sprint Cup season championships since Earnhardt's last victory.

Still, there are several much longer winless streaks for drivers who also ran Saturday night.

Bobby Labonte has started 259 races since his last victory in 2003, while Robby Gordon has made 255 starts since also winning that year. Dave Blaney has never won in 369 races since his 1992 Cup debut.

Sprint Cup Standings

1 Carl Edwards 256 7 2 1 4 5 5 6 0 $2,373,400
2 Kyle Busch 247 9 7 0 1 4 5 5 6 1 $1,475,750
3 Matt Kenseth 243 13 7 1 1 3 4 6 6 1 $1,579,265
4 Jimmie Johnson 243 13 7 0 0 3 4 5 6 0 $1,415,090
5 Kurt Busch 240 16 7 0 0 1 5 5 7 0 $1,619,151
6 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 235 21 7 1 0 1 4 6 6 1 $1,055,113
7 Ryan Newman 233 23 7 0 0 3 4 5 6 0 $1,256,288
8 Juan Pablo Montoya 232 24 7 1 0 2 4 5 6 0 $1,373,419
9 Kevin Harvick 228 28 7 0 2 3 4 4 6 1 $1,512,825
10 Tony Stewart 213 43 7 0 0 1 2 5 6 0 $1,344,519
11 Paul Menard 209 47 7 0 0 2 3 4 6 1 $924,038
12 Clint Bowyer 201 55 7 0 0 1 3 4 5 1 $1,387,419
13 A J Allmendinger 193 63 7 0 0 0 1 4 6 0 $1,096,665

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