Ohio State Buckeyes: Florida A&M Rattlers

What we learned: Week 4

September, 22, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- New developments for Ohio State coming out of an easy, tune-up win over Florida A&M, a 76-0 rout on Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.

Man on fire: Braxton Miller is eventually going to come back and reclaim his starting job, but Kenny Guiton has more than kept the seat warm. The redshirt senior has been a record-setting inferno, throwing the football in the last two victories while Miller has rested his sprained knee. Guiton etched his name in Ohio State lore again with six touchdown passes -- the most in school history for a single game, a record that only took him two quarters to accomplish. The Buckeyes were already confident in their backup before the last two weeks, but their depth at quarterback has proven to be a luxury few teams in the country can match.

The defensive line is only getting better: Even with two starters out with injury, the Buckeyes still were able to deliver consistent pressure. The defensive line continues to silence any doubts about a rebuilt unit up front. Adolphus Washington (groin) and Michael Bennett (stinger) were held out to get them ready for next week’s physical test against Wisconsin, and backups Steve Miller and Chase Farris each chipped in sacks to offer some evidence there is improving depth to go along with the top-end talent in the normal first-team lineup.

The offense has weapons to spare: The Rattlers were hopelessly overmatched from the start, so much of Ohio State’s frighteningly efficient offensive outing must be taken with a grain of salt. But the Buckeyes have more than just a capable backup at quarterback -- they’ve got dynamic, young playmakers waiting for touches at running back and wide receiver as well. Ezekiel Elliott came off the bench in the second half to rush for 162 yards and two touchdowns, Warren Ball added 49 more rushing yards and Guiton completed passes to 10 receivers. Ohio State is putting up points in bunches now, and the future looks just as bright.

Five things: Ohio State-Florida A&M

September, 21, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The nonconference schedule comes to a close this afternoon as No. 4 Ohio State gets one last tuneup before diving into the Big Ten.

Signal-caller shuffle: The Buckeyes are enormous favorites at home against the Rattlers, and it doesn't figure to make much difference who lines up at quarterback to lead the offense to a victory. But there is still some uncertainty about Braxton Miller's injured knee, and after playing just seven snaps two weeks ago and not at all in the win over California, there might also be some rust given his lack of live reps so far this season. So if Miller is close to 100 percent, coach Urban Meyer will have to decide how much work to give the starter ahead of next week's league opener with Wisconsin. Either way, Kenny Guiton will still have chances to add to his impressive numbers early in the season -- but deciding when or if to get Miller back in the mix is perhaps the most pressing concern this weekend.

On the run: The return of Carlos Hyde after a three-game suspension will change the other dynamic in the Ohio State backfield also, and Meyer and the staff will have another decision to make as it determines how to best split up the workload on the ground. Jordan Hall has done nothing to lose his starting spot and ranks among the most productive rushers in the country through three games. Dontre Wilson's blistering speed is already allowing him to make a big splash early. But Hyde was critically important to the attack last year with his bruising rushing style and brutal effectiveness in the red zone, and if nothing else, having him back gives the Buckeyes options.

Wrap it up: Given the volume of plays the Buckeyes faced last week at Cal, a few blown assignments were bound to happen on the road against an uptempo attack. But defensive captains Christian Bryant and Ryan Shazier aren't excusing those errors for themselves or anybody else on the unit, and they easily rattled off the exact number of blown tackles (16) to make it clear that expectations weren't met. Potentially having the chance to put more linebackers on the field this week could help with that after needing to deploy a personnel grouping with seven defensive backs against Cal, but regardless of who is on the field, the Buckeyes are focused on limiting mistakes before the competition gets tougher.

Look alive: What the Rattlers may lack in overall depth and talent, they should more than make up for with relentless aggression on defense. The Buckeyes are expecting to face an onslaught of blitzes and pressure packages from Florida A&M, which will make it imperative for the offensive line to be locked in to protect either Miller or Guiton. It could also be a useful tool for Miller if he does see some action, since the live bullets flying at him could force him to make his reads quickly, get the ball out of his hands and get used to game speed again.

Massive mismatch: On paper, Florida A&M may come in as the most overmatched squad Ohio State has faced in the modern era. That certainly gives the Rattlers a chance to pull off something special and unforgettable, but if the Buckeyes have taken practice as seriously as they claimed and haven't overlooked this opponent in favor of glancing ahead at Wisconsin, there really shouldn't be any resistance for them once kickoff rolls around. Meyer will be looking for any sign that his team isn't focused, though, and with a huge game looming, he won't hesitate to let the Buckeyes know if they're not meeting his standards.

Planning for success: Ohio State

September, 19, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The key to a seamless transition into the lineup for Kenny Guiton has never really been a secret.

The Ohio State senior has consistently been praised for his embracing of mental reps, standing about 10 yards behind the first-team offense, going through the same drop-back as Braxton Miller and then working through the same route progression to ensure he's on the same page if he's needed to fill in at quarterback.

But those simulations really only help keep Guiton sharp. It takes something more to make the move from starter to backup look as seamless for the rest of the offense as it did repeatedly last year in short-term appearances or last week in a complete outing for Guiton, and the Buckeyes have a practice plan designed for successful transitions that includes giving live reps in practice to their second option that serve a purpose for more than just snapping him a ball.

"Coach [Urban] Meyer always talks about taking game reps and taking mental reps, and mental reps are just as important as game reps," tight end Jeff Heuerman said. "Kenny is awesome, and he takes more mental reps than anybody does.

"But the coaches also put us in situations sometimes like that where they take Braxton out, and, here, Kenny’s in now and you still have to go about the game. We do that in practice a lot, and you just have to go about practice."

That business-as-usual approach when the Buckeyes are forced to make a switch at quarterback during a game has become the standard not just because Guiton keeps himself ready to do anything at any time, but also because the rest of the offense has become accustomed to seeing him in the huddle on the practice field.

The continuity was obviously critical for Ohio State last season with Guiton coming off the bench to finish off a handful of touchdown drives while Miller occasionally received medical attention, with his heroic work late in the fourth quarter against Purdue most notable among the appearances in relief. But over the last two weeks heading into Saturday's meeting with Florida A&M, Guiton has been called on to lead the offense for all but seven snaps thanks to Miller's sprained knee, and there hasn't been even one moment of panic for the Buckeyes even though they're playing without a truly dynamic athlete who finished fifth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy last year.

"We’ve got a backup who can step in and do a pretty good job," wide receiver Philly Brown said. "When Kenny comes in the game, everybody is 100 percent confident that he can do the same things.

"I mean, Kenny has been around here a long time ... and he does everything that Braxton does at practice. Kenny gets the same amount of reps as Braxton does at practice, so the timing and everything is always going to be there."

Guiton helps make sure of that by simulating every play even when he's not an active participant. The rest of the Buckeyes handle their part by never blinking when Guiton is thrown out there to work with them, be it during a practice on a Wednesday or the fourth quarter on a Saturday.


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