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Ohio State quarterback battle down to 2?

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

Two weeks remain until Ohio State opens the 2011 football season and coach Luke Fickell’s search for a starting quarterback continues — but that doesn’t mean the competition hasn’t been whittled down. 

What was once a four-horse race has become a two-man sprint.

The Buckeyes participated in a jersey scrimmage on Saturday in Ohio Stadium that pitted the offense against the defense. The two main competitors for the quarterback position — senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller — took the majority of snaps under center and had plenty of opportunities to impress Fickell.

Bauserman received the most reps with OSU’s first-team offense and was 7-for-13 passing for 120 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

His touchdown drive started with deep ball to freshman wide receiver Devin Smith for a 55-yard gain. Bauserman capped the drive by stepping up in a collapsing pocket and hitting freshman tight end Jeff Heuerman for a 10-yard touchdown.

The interception, which was the lone turnover of the day, was picked off by junior defensive back Travis Howard in the end zone.

Miller, who donned a black, no-contact jersey for parts of the scrimmage, took most of the remaining snaps with the first-team offense. 

Miller was 9-for-17, passing for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

For his first score, Miller lofted a deep ball to wide receiver Chris Fields. Fields adjusted to the under-thrown ball, made the catch and scampered away from the defense for a 58-yard score.

Miller’s second touchdown came on a 25-yard pass to fellow freshman Evan Spencer.

Kenny Guiton completed 4 of 10 passes for 29 yards and no touchdowns.

Taylor Graham went 3-for-4 for 25 yards.

After the scrimmage, Fickell said he was “impressed” with what he saw from all the quarterbacks.

“They look like they are in control,” Fickell said. “From what I saw so far, they didn’t flinch. They weren’t worried. To me, that’s more what we are looking for to see in the stadium. Obviously there’s not 106,000 people hollering at you, but when you walk in there you know what it’s about.”

Fickell did not speculate about Miller’s chances to start, but said he liked what he saw from the freshman quarterback.

“He obviously did a good job of moving around,” Fickell said. “I don’t think he turned the ball over and that’s probably one of the number one things we want to make sure we focus on.”

Offensive coordinator Jeff Bollman hinted that the Buckeyes could play more than one quarterback once the season starts.

“Based on what we’ve done in the past, I think we have to have two quarterbacks ready,” Bollman said. “Especially earlier in the year, we’ve always played a couple guys.”

None of the Buckeyes’ signal-callers were available for comment after the scrimmage, but their fellow teammates expressed confidence in each quarterback.

“(Bauserman and Miller) have both done a great job,” senior center Mike Brewster said. “You know, everyone has just really been competing. I think (Bauserman) has had a really good camp along with the other guys.”

The players will now enjoy an off day on Sunday before resuming camp activities. With two weeks left before OSU kicks off their season against the Akron Zips on Sept. 3, Fickell said he’s not done testing his team, especially the quarterbacks.

“At (the quarterback) position you can probably never be truly ready for the all different things you get, the emotional side of things,” he said. “So we’ve got to do as many mental things to them (as possible) to see how they’ll handle them.”

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