Tuesday, January 16, 2007

QB Comparison: Because it's never too early

Sure, it's only January. And sure, the season ended a mere week ago. But hey, what better way to forget about that catastrophe last than to talk about what the future holds for the Buckeyes? Sure, I dove into it briefly a few days ago, but there's still that one topic that is going to be fluttering throughout everybody's minds from now until next season: Just who will be the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes next season? Sure, there are plenty of other interesting position battles at Wide Receiver, in the secondary, and along the defensive lines to name a few, but none are nearly as compelling as the one under center. The difference between the quarterback spot and the other positions is that we actually know what we're getting from those guys to an extent. The most that any of the three quarterbacks have played came in so-called "garbage time" against minuscule opponents.

The Columbus Dispatch discussed the issue earlier in the week with a story and a brief comparison of the three candidates. The comparisons are scary (and not in the good way), with Boeckman, the most experienced of the three, only having 10 career pass attempts. It really begs the question, why did Tressel continue to play Zwick so much at the end of games when two other guys needed the game experience more (Henton redshirted)? Obviously, it seemed like the logical thing to do at the time, but looking back on it, I think everyone would be willing to sacrifice one unhappy player (a benched Zwick) for one or two players better fit to play late in games (a playing Zwick/Schoenhoft).

Here's my first of a three-part series on the three quarterbacks

Todd Boeckman, Redshirt junior

6'5'' 235 pounds

Career Stats:
6-10 86 yards, 1 TD
4 rush, 14 yards 1 TD


Positives:
Boeckman will enter Spring Practice listed as the #1 guy on the team's depth chart, and barring any injury, will most likely be the starter for the opening game of the season. This isn't because he is any more talented than the other quarterbacks; it's just due to Tressel's reputation of going by seniority when it comes to naming starters in tight position battles. Boeckman, surprisingly, is in his fifth year with the program, despite only being a junior. Boeckman greyshirted in 2003 (Intentionally earning less than 12 credits in one academic year. This allows for players to work with the team without playing, but not sacrificing their redshirt either), and then Redshirted during the 2004 season (You may remember a slight controversy during the 2004 Alamo Bowl when Troy Smith was suspended, and Justin Zwick had a pulled hamstring, in which Tressel had to decide whether or not to tear off Boeckman's redshirt in the final game, or put Ted Ginn in at quarterback). Boeckman has been able to gain experience despite a lack of playing time, something which is crucial for anybody expecting to be a Division-I quarterback, especially at Ohio State. As far as actual playing ability and measurements are concerned, the most noticeable contrast that you will see from Troy Smith to Boeckman is in his size. At 6'5", Boeckman also has some meat on his bones with his 235 lb. frame. Boeckman's deep ball is his greatest asset, as he has the needed touch on his throws to be accurate in the vertical passing game, which was a bit of an inconsistency in Troy Smith's game. The only time Boeckman has really had the opportunity to display this was in the opening week of the 2005 season against Miami, in which he hit Ted Ginn in stride for a 42 yard touchdown pass. He is mobile enough to escape trouble, and can occasionally be used in the running game. Interestingly enough, when Boeckman was in the game over the course of the season, there was an increase in the number of times the Buckeyes ran the option. One time, Boeckman scored a touchdown off of an option out of Shotgun against Northwestern.

Negatives:
Right now there are two serious questions surrounding Boeckman other than the obvious lack of game-experience:

1) Can he overcome the injury bug that has followed him ever since his High School career?

and

2) How reliable can he be when we need him most?

Obviously, neither of these questions can be answered as of this moment. However, they are both worth addressing. As a senior in High School, Boeckman sprained his MCL, and missed much of the season. During the jersey scrimmage over the summer, Boeckman suffered from an undisclosed injury, and missed some practices. Boeckman also suffered from an injury trying to run with the ball late in the game against Cincinnati last season. Although none of those injuries are to be considered major, he does seem to be banged up quite a bit compared to Buckeye quarterbacks of the past. Troy Smith and Craig Krenzel took a ton of hits during their respective tenures as Buckeyes, and the only injuries to come from them were an injured thumb and an injury against Penn State in 2003 which escapes me at the moment (concussion perhaps?). Both quarterbacks had the tendency to leave the pocket, and often found themselves out in the middle of the field with nowhere to go but into the arms of an awaiting linebacker. Boeckman often likes to scramble around at times, and I'm going to be cringing twice as hard when I see him get tackled, just because of his history of frailty.

Question #2 is the serious wild card here. Although he has been in the system for five years, and is a smart enough player to make proper reads, he's still started as many D-1 college football games as you or me. Although he hasn't had any Saturday opportunities to prove himself as either a "big time player" or a "big time choke," various scrimmages do not necessarily leave a positive image in the eyes of a fan. In multiple jersey scrimmages, Boeckman has been described as "shaky," whereas his counterpart for who he will be forever compared to, Rob Schoenhoft, has appeared much more confident in the pocket (that is based off of various reports I have read, as I have never actually witnessed a jersey scrimmage). In his only other opportunities for competitive play (Spring Games), Boeckman is a hardly awe-inspiring 15-34 for 200 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions for his career. I know they're only scrimmages, but it would be nice to see some positive signs in competition. I'll reserve final judgment on him regarding this issue until the season is underway, however.

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