COLUMBUS Ohio State's Jim Tressel has stuck religiously with the core principles that have brought him success through his more than 30 years of coaching in college football.
But the current quarterback situation with the Buckeyes has put the Tressel doctrine under increased scrutiny.
The sticky predicament he finds himself in now involves senior Todd Boeckman and freshman Terrelle Pryor.
Who do you hand the car keys to, for an offense that has sputtered the last two weeks while running without the injured Chris 'Beanie' Wells at tailback.
The Buckeyes (2-1) will host Troy on Saturday and are coming off a humbling 35-3 loss to top-ranked Southern California that has spawned a spirited quarterback discussion, if not a budding controversy.
Tressel said yesterday, if the game took place that night, he would have expected Boeckman and Pryor to split the snaps 50-50. His quick addendum said the division of the workload this Saturday could be impacted by what takes place at practice the remainder of the week and by what transpires in the game against Troy.
Tressel always has preferred experience over exuberance. He likes to play guys he knows and trusts, and the more age rings on their college football trunk, the better.
And he likes his quarterbacks to be great decision-makers before they are great players, and in spite Boeckman's three turnovers at USC, Tressel said he still has confidence in Boeckman.
'What we have to work on is what we are doing in the game of football, that we need to do better,' Tressel said yesterday in a meeting with the media at the team's indoor practice facility. 'No one has changed any thinking about who they are.'
Tressel has been as consistent with that philosophy as he has been with the gray suit and scarlet necktie at public functions and the red sweater vest on game days.
However, he did say he has asked his offensive coaching staff for input on the subject of dividing the offensive plays at practice between Boeckman and Pryor.
'I asked the question, how should we go about practicing our quarterbacks, and how do you envision how much of the time each is going to play?' Tressel said.
'Everyone likes to have an opinion, and you craft your own opinion by the logic of others, and so we came to the consensus that Terrelle was going to do about 65 percent of them and Todd was going to do about 35 percent of them in part because so many of them Todd has done so many times already, and we know what he can do.'
By comparison, Pryor was on the field for 25 of Ohio State's 64 offensive plays against USC (39 percent). Pryor, the nation's top high school player a year ago when he rushed for 1,899 yards, passed for another 1,889 and accounted for 58 touchdowns, leads Ohio State in rushing after three games with an average of 5.2 yards per carry.
'Terrelle has progressed with the lack of snaps in practice and in the games more than you think he would,' Tressel said. 'I've seen freshmen get kind of thrown into the fire and grow every practice and grow every game because they got so much experience. But I've seen him grow with a little bit less experience, which means he's done a good job of learning by observing, which is the hardest thing for a player to do.'
Tressel said he was a little surprised the quarterbacks have become the dominant point of discussion this soon.
Boeckman has time-served on his side he was working out with the Buckeyes in the summer of 2003 when Pryor was getting ready for eighth grade. Boeckman delayed enrolling until 2004, and is now in his sixth year in the program and his second as the starter after serving behind Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith for two seasons.
'I don't think at the outset I thought this might happen,' Tressel said. 'I would say this Terrelle has been very impressive. There's not many freshmen that I've had with very limited reps have been able to conceptually pick up as much as he has, and he's a pretty special player. But did I think this would happen? No. But things unfold how they unfold, and you've got to deal with them.'
While most of the Ohio State players have walked the diplomatic fine line on the subject of who should be quarterbacking the Buckeyes, junior wide receiver Brian Hartline gave Pryor one of the strongest endorsements for an increased role with the offense.
'I think if he deserves it, he should,' Hartline said. 'I know he made a few good plays out there, and the future is very bright for him.'
Offensive guard Steve Rehring is out with an injury and will not play against
Troy, Tressel said. Sophomore Andrew Miller and freshman J.B. Shugarts are expected to fill in for Rehring. ... Tressel said running back Chris Wells, who has missed the last two games with an injury to this right foot, is 'questionable' for Saturday. Tressel said Wells did fine with his recent cardio work and running in a straight line but will be tested further on his ability to cut and push off his injured foot. ... Three weeks into the 2008 season, the Big Ten favorite Buckeyes have no one listed among the conference's top 10 in rushing, total offense, receiving yards or all-purpose yards.
Contact Matt Markey at email@example.com or at 419-724-6510.