Bauserman waiting in wings for Buckeyes

By most measures, Joe Bauserman qualifies as a veteran.

You can start with his birth certificate. It reads Oct. 4, 1985. That means he'll turn 25 years old two days after Ohio State visits Illinois this season.

Bauserman also is no stranger to high-level athletic competition. Aside from Ohio State teammate Devin Barclay, a 27-year-old former Major League Soccer player, no Buckeye has had a more extensive athletic career.

Bauserman was part of Ohio State's 2004 recruiting class but delayed his arrival to play minor league baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. A fourth-round draft pick by the Pirates, Bauserman pitched three years in the minors, compiling a 14-12 record with a 3.42 ERA. He finally joined the Ohio State football program as a walk-on in 2007.

About the only place where Bauserman can't be called an old hand is the football game field. He has only 25 pass attempts in two seasons as Terrelle Pryor's backup, racking up 146 pass yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

"It's hard when you're the backup," quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said.

Pryor is as entrenched as any quarterback in the country, having started 22 of Ohio State's last 23 games. Other signal callers like Antonio Henton and Rob Schoenhoft left Columbus after Pryor signed, sensing the inevitable, but Bauserman has stuck around.

"Joe’s been in a tough position ever since Terrelle got here," Siciliano said. "From a maturity standpoint, I don't think you can be any better than he has. He hasn’t whined, he hasn’t complained, he’s been a total team guy.

"He loves to compete, and that’s why Joe has a chance."

Bauserman's right arm gives him that chance. He's not the runner that Pryor and fellow reserve Kenny Guiton are, but the former pitcher can sling the football.

Siciliano stopped short of proclaiming Bauserman has the strongest arm on the team, saying, "If I say yes, Terrelle might get offended, so I’ll leave that one." But the coach added, "Joe’s ball gets up to speed as fast as it can and comes out really easily. He can chuck the thing with the best of 'em."

The 6-1, 233-pound Bauserman spent the spring working on his decision-making and his footwork, trying to get his drops in sync with the receivers' routes. Like the other quarterbacks, Bauserman struggled in the team's jersey scrimmage, completing 4 of 13 passes with an interception, though he did connect on passes of 32 and 25 yards.

Bauserman's woes continued in the spring game, as he completed 6 of 15 passes with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Guiton, who Siciliano praised for being quick to absorb information and instructions, turned heads by tossing two touchdown passes.

Pryor is Ohio State's clear starter, but Bauserman is being challenged for the No. 2 job.

“I would say it’s Joe 2 and Kenny 3 with Kenny pushing the gap a little bit," Siciliano said.

Many think an injury to Pryor would torpedo Ohio State's national title hopes, but Siciliano has faith in the men behind him.

"I don’t think I’d bat an eye because the other 10 guys around [the new quarterback] in the huddle would step up their game," Siciliano said. "Don’t get me wrong, there’d be some level of difficulty with Terrelle leaving the game. Our mind-set’s got to change a little bit, but I’ve got the utmost confidence that those guys would do a great job."