By Peter Marx
OXFORD, Ohio - Austin Boucher will get his chance to be the Miami University football team's starting quarterback when spring ball starts March 25.
Last season, the soon-to-be senior backed up former starter Zac Dysert, a key man in next month's NFL Draft. But Boucher, like most young quarterbacks, doesn't lack game experience.
The Kettering, Ohio native is 4-0 as a starter, as he helped lead the RedHawks to the 2010 Mid-American Conference Championship and a victory over Middle Tennessee State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
"The initial plan is to give Austin Boucher the first chance to start," MU quarterbacks coach Mike Bath said on Wednesday. "He's been a young man that has worked his rear end off in this program and has done a lot of great things. Even behind the scenes, he's done the little things."
Boucher has completed 112 of 178 passes for 1,278 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions during his career at Miami. The 6-foot-1, 214-pound lefty had his most productive game against Northern Illinois in 2010, where he threw for 333 yards.
"He's such a passionate kid, he's a great leader and he's a talented kid," Bath said. "It's going to be neat to afford him the opportunity to go out there and show us all what we all know he can do. Austin is a different player than Zac. He uses his feet a little bit more. Zac has a different arm, but Boucher can throw the ball. He can manage the gameand he's one of those kids that, by his presence, others gain confidence. He's just got that little bit of swagger about him - that 'it' factor."
While Boucher is penciled in as the No. 1 guy right now, Drew Kummer and Austin Gearing are very much in the hunt for the starting job.
"I've told both those guys that we want them to compete for the starting job," Bath said. "The worst thing a quarterback can do is not compete and think he's going to be a backup. We don't want to waste this spring with those guys thinking they are going to be backups."
Both Kummer and Gearing didn't see any time under center last season, but they did gain valuable practice experience.
Kummer, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound third-string player last season, is deceptively athletic and has a great arm, Bath said.
"Since a year ago, I really believe he's gotten a lot better from a fundamental aspect and from a confidence standpoint," Bath explained. "He understands what it takes to be a college quarterback. It's been exciting to see his maturation."
Kummer went to Cincinnati's La Salle High School, where he led the Lancers to two Greater Catholic League South Championships. He holds the school's record for most career passing yards with 4,891. The Queen City native will be a red-shirt junior in the fall.
Gearing, who red-shirted last season, ran the team's scout team offense in practice. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Franklin, Ohio native brings a physical presence to the game and has good range.
"He's a big individual," Bath said. "That young man is an elite athlete. He works hard. He's just innately tough. When you couple toughness with a great work ethic, you can have a bright future."
Also in the mix come fall pre-season drills is true freshman Tom Tupa, the son of former NFL Pro Bowl punter Tom Tupa, who played for Ohio State collegiately and for six different teams in the pros.
Tupa, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound native of Brecksville, Ohio, was one of the RedHawks' most prized recruits this off-season.
"He was one of our top two guys on the board," Bath said. "This time a year ago, we put all the quarterbacks in the state of Ohio and quarterbacks from the area on the board and watched their tapes. I remember telling our staff, if I can coach that kid, he's going to be great for this team and the future of the program."
Bath continued, "(Tupa) is a talented young man. He just has a great feel for the game. His dad did a great job of coaching him when he wanted to be coached and teaching him the right way to do things."
Tupa will likely red-shirt this upcoming season and run the scout team offense, Bath added.
"Probably the biggest adjustment for him is going from being the top dog to not seeing the field on game day," Bath said.