September 11, 2002 at 8:41 PM EST - Updated July 1 at 8:55 AM
By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Craig Krenzel spent most of last season on the sidelines.
He didn't play in the first nine games, including one excused absence when he skipped a game to attend his sister's wedding. How many other college quarterbacks are so expendable?
Now coach Jim Tressel is giving him more freedom with each game to put his own stamp on No. 6 Ohio State's offense.
The Buckeyes have scored 96 points in their first two games. On many of those scoring drives, it was Krenzel -- the first-year starting quarterback from Michigan -- who was pushing the right buttons in a no-huddle offense that permits him to overrule the calls sent in from the coaches.
Ohio State calls its no-huddle an "attack phase."
"The thing I've loved about Craig forever is that he has the ability to know what our team needs done," Tressel said this week as the Buckeyes prepared for their Saturday showdown with No. 10 Washington State. "If it means he's going to hand off a bunch of times, fine. If it means he needs to complete 82 percent of his passes, that excites him as well. If it means the cerebral game, where he has to do the checking at the line, fine.
"He knows what we need. That's very comforting."
Like many other colleges around the nation, Ohio State occasionally comes to the line without a huddle. When the Buckeyes do, they take their set with several plays available. Krenzel has the final say on what the call will be.
He knows that Tressel and the Buckeyes coaching staff put a lot of faith in his ability to counteract a last-second defensive switch.
"The fact that they trust me enough to go out and be able to read the defense well enough to get us into the right play, it speaks of their confidence in me," the junior said.
Krenzel was on the field for 30 or so plays in the Buckeyes' 51-17 victory over Kent State last week and said he changed 20 or 25 calls. He was perfect on all but two.
"When we call things as a coaching staff, many times we're guessing as to what (defense) they'll be in," Tressel said. "When you're the quarterback, you're standing right there."
The no-huddle look gives Ohio State more time to adjust to a defense because no time is wasted in a huddle.
Tight end Ben Hartsock said the no-huddle offense -- and a quarterback who is perceptive enough to run it correctly -- creates major problems for a defense.
"The hope is that it puts them in a no-win situation, that no matter what they put up in front of us we're going to have an answer to it," he said. "That's the ultimate goal."
For example, if the defense stacks eight men on the line of scrimmage, Krenzel might change to a pass play into single coverage. If the defense lays back anticipating a pass, he can change to a run.
"We're more in sync now," tailback Maurice Hall said. "Craig knows what he's doing and the line understands what it's doing. So when we check we're all on the same page."
Hall said that on one play against Kent State, the defense was overloaded on the right side so the play was changed to a sweep the other way. It resulted in a 15-yard gain.
Tressel didn't use the no-huddle much last season despite having third-year starter Steve Bellisari at quarterback. He is thrilled with the way Krenzel has thrived in attack phase.
"So far he's done an excellent job," he said.
Krenzel is completing 82 percent of his passes (23 of 28) for 308 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He said the no-huddle does give him more responsibility but also gives the entire offense a better chance of adapting.
"It's really not giving me more control," he said. "It's more giving the offense a better chance to succeed on every play."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)