While Veteran QBs Practice, Zwick Can Only Wait, Watch
April 4, 2002 at 12:56 AM EST - Updated July 28 at 4:00 PM
By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - High school senior Justin Zwick literally and figuratively was looking over the shoulders of Ohio State's two established quarterbacks as the Buckeyes began spring football workouts Wednesday.
Zwick, the acclaimed passer from Massillon's Washington High School, sported a varsity jacket and jeans -- and not a uniform -- as he spent his spring break watching the Buckeyes' first practice in chilly weather outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
"I just wanted to come down and be around practice. I've been excited for it to start," said Zwick, who won't join the Buckeyes until August. "I'm looking forward to summer coming and just trying to be around it as much as I can."
Holdover junior quarterbacks Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen went through their paces running the offense, flipping passes in the gusting winds and working on timing with their receivers.
Krenzel started the Buckeyes' last two games last year -- including the win at Michigan -- while McMullen got the call to start against Illinois on short notice when three-year starter Steve Bellisari was arrested on drunken driving charges.
Now that Bellisari is gone, Krenzel and McMullen are getting almost all of the practice snaps this spring. But there is still a lingering feeling that Zwick may have the right stuff to step in and contend for the starting job when he arrives on campus in midsummer.
"It's very difficult, not to say it can't be done," Krenzel said when asked how hard it would be for a freshman to start at Ohio State. "It's the terminology, it's the defenses you face and it's the speed of the game."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel frequently ran over to Zwick during drills to point out a coverage or a play. He said he was happy to see so many recruits and high school players watching the Buckeyes practice.
"Some people go to Florida and Cancun. Other guys go to the frigid spring practice here," Tressel said. "It's fun for them. They get anxious, too. They went through all that football and then all that recruiting and then all of a sudden for the past month or so there hasn't been much. They enjoy coming out and peeking in the huddle and trying to find out what's going on."
When asked about what he hopes to see from his quarterbacks this spring, Tressel spoke in platitudes and generalities. He said all of his players needed to get better and that he wasn't focusing on just the battle at one position.
The second-year coach said the quarterback spot won't be decided over the 15 spring practices. The pecking order will be determined only after Zwick is actually in the huddle and competing in practice with Krenzel and McMullen.
"I think all three of them will be banging against each other," Tressel said. "But again, as we've said for quite some time, if they can focus on themselves getting better and leave the discussion as to who is No. 1 and No. 2 and No. 3 to other people, I think their play will be better."
Many observers did not think Tressel ever allowed the backups to take the job last season. McMullen is certain he'll get a good shot this season with Bellisari graduated.
"With him gone, I think this is going to be our time to work," McMullen said.
Meanwhile, Zwick will be watching. He's staying with his brother, a second-year dental student at Ohio State, while attending practices this week.
"My time will come," he said. "I've just got to sit and wait for it."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)