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Big questions unanswered at Ohio State's spring game



Published: Sat, April 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Buckeyes still aren't sure who will start at quarterback and running back.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio State closed spring football practice with a sloppy scrimmage that didn't provide the answer to a crucial question -- who will start for the Buckeyes at quarterback and tailback, their most high-profile positions?

The leading contenders for the jobs, Troy Smith and Antonio Pittman, refused to speculate on their chances after the Scarlet defeated the Gray 19-6 on Saturday in the annual spring game.

"We don't talk about that at all," Smith said.

Added Pittman: "It's not going to be determined until the opener."

Both squads did little offensively before 22,649 in rainy and windy Ohio Stadium. The Gray scored 13 points, 10 off turnovers, in a 4:09 span of the second quarter and then drove for a touchdown behind Smith for a 19-0 lead late in the third.

Smith, Justin Zwick and third-stringer Todd Boeckman had trouble with the weather and their passes often sailed over or behind intended receivers. They went a combined 19-for-48 for 111 yards, with Smith throwing the only interception.

Erik Haw, competing with Pittman for the starting tailback job, scored the Scarlet's only touchdown on a 10-yard run in the fourth. He rushed 16 times for a game-high 86 yards.

"We both came into the spring as backups. There were no starters," Pittman said.

Versatile player

The Buckeyes' best all-around threat on offense, wideout-kick returner Ted Ginn Jr., played a few plays at cornerback in the second half for the Scarlet. That's where he was supposed to play as a freshman last year before showcasing the sprinter's speed that made him an invaluable part of Ohio State's offense.

Coach Jim Tressel said Ginn is becoming more comfortable with the offense now that he's had a full spring practice and could play man-to-man defense at cornerback when the opponent is threatening to score.

The open cornerback spot could go to Sirjo Welch, Tressel said. Welch stayed right with speedy wideout Anthony Gonzalez to break up a potential touchdown pass in the first half.

"Sirjo is a guy when it's game time just seems to do things. Sometimes you think he's got further to go than he does when you watch the drills and when it's time to play he seems to be in position," Tressel said.

The Scarlet-Gray scrimmage marks the end of spring practice and gives Buckeyes coaches one last chance to evaluate players before they gather again in August to prepare for the season.

Poor performance

They couldn't have liked the Scarlet's performance in the second quarter.

After redshirt freshman Jonathan Skeete kicked a 43-yard field goal with 7:18 remaining, the Scarlet managed only 5 yards on three plays before the long-snapper launched the ball over punter Tyson Gentry's head.

Kyle Ruhl recovered for the Gray and two plays later it was 10-0 on Boeckman's 6-yard scoring pass to Gonzalez.

The Scarlet fumbled again on its next possession when Albert Dukes caught a pass from Zwick and got stripped by Donte Whitner. Curtis Terry recovered and ran 36 yards to the 4, leading to Skeete's 22-yard field goal with 3:09 left in the half.

Smith threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Marcel Frost with 3:01 to play in the third quarter, capping a 7-play, 52-yard drive. The Gray's first three scoring drives covered 32 yards in 16 plays.

Boeckman, a redshirt freshman hoping to pass Zwick as Smith's backup, was on the field more than the two juniors, playing the first half for the Gray in relief of Smith and then taking over the Scarlet from Zwick in the second half.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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