Big Ten: 2010 CFB Live IP main

Stephfon Green knew what his role would be in the 2010 season before anyone else did.

When fellow Penn State running back Evan Royster decided in January to return for his senior season, Green got the news directly from the source.

[+] EnlargeGreen
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireStephfon Green carried the ball 71 times as Evan Royster's backup last season.
“He told me first, before he told anybody,” Green said, “so I wasn’t surprised.”

Royster’s message meant that Green, in all likelihood, would be handling backup duties for Penn State for the third consecutive season.

Royster has been Penn State’s featured back since 2008, rushing for 2,405 yards and 18 touchdowns during the span. The first-team All-Big Ten selection from last season is on pace to break Curt Warner’s team rushing record this fall.

Bottom line: barring injury, Royster will carry the rock for Penn State in 2010, and Green will spend more time waiting his turn.

“I can’t control what happens,” Green said. “I just try to prepare myself so if anything was to happen [to Royster], I could step in and play that starting role. I don’t have any animosity toward it, I’m not mad or anything like that.

“We just have a real good running back sitting in the backfield this year. It’s good for our team.”

Here’s why Green shouldn’t be too upset about another year as the second-stringer.

Penn State will turn to a young, unproven quarterback this season following the graduation of standout Daryll Clark. To ease the pressure, Joe Paterno and his offensive staff will turn to the running backs.

While Royster boasts an impressive career yards-per-carry average (6.1), he has only averaged 15.2 carries per game in his two seasons as the starter. He has received 20 or more carries just three times in his career. Green, meanwhile, has recorded 176 carries in the past two seasons and should continue to receive a decent number this fall.

“We’re young at quarterback, and we’re probably going to have to rely on the running game a lot this year,” Green said. “I’m happy with the touches I get.”

The 5-foot-10, 197-pound Green generated buzz during spring practice in 2008 after recording several breakaway runs in scrimmages. His A-plus speed and mesmerizing moves made him a coveted recruit coming out of Kennedy High School in Bronx, N.Y.

Green said his style often draws comparisons to that of a certain NFL back.

"Everybody keeps telling me Thomas Jones," he said. "I try to go for LaDainian Tomlinson, but I haven't quite got there yet."

Some expected Green to challenge for the starting job as a freshman, but Royster established himself as Penn State's No. 1 ball carrier and has never looked back. Green still rushed for 578 yards and four touchdowns on 105 carries (5.5 ypc average), logging 269 plays.

A dislocated ankle in the Rose Bowl against USC slowed Green, who missed spring ball following surgery. He seemed to be hitting his stride last season with strong performances against Illinois and Eastern Illinois before reinjuring the ankle and missing two games. Green didn't feel 100 percent again until the Capital One Bowl, a 19-17 Penn State win against LSU.

The junior spent this spring working on his blocking, specifically picking up blitzes from different angles.

"I'm trying to be a smarter player, be a student of the game," he said. "Seeing things, talking to the linebackers, asking them what their keys are when they're blitzing, things like that. The overall aspect of blocking, I improved on."

Although he's not a big back, Green added a few pounds to his frame and hopes to be more durable. Just in case he moves up a spot on the depth chart.

"Hopefully, my ankle holds up and I can be more durable," he said. "If you really look at it, I haven't had any other problems but my ankle. If that holds up, I can be more of an asset to this team."
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.

[+] EnlargeBauserman
D. Jay Talbott/Icon SMIOhio State quarterback Joe Bauserman doesn't complain about being Terrelle Pryor's back-up.
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."