No controversy at QB for Buckeyes
September, 23, 2013
By Austin Ward | ESPN.com
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's a chance of rust, and Urban Meyer is well aware of it.
The backup quarterback has been on fire, and the Ohio State coach has certainly acknowledged how valuable those contributions have been.
But it doesn't even take much reading between the lines to see there's no real difficulty for Meyer in picking between Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton, though he did sprinkle a few clues through his Monday news conference that made it clear who would be taking the first snap of Saturday night's critical Big Ten clash at home against Wisconsin. And if the references to Miller's undefeated record as a starter since Meyer took over the program -- or the reminders about his overall improvement at the position since spring practice -- weren't enough, he didn't exactly dance around the issue while still trying to leave the door open.
"I haven’t decided how we’re going to do it," Meyer said. "But I know Braxton, if he has a good week of practice, will start."
And once the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year and the fifth-place finisher in the Heisman Trophy race last year gets back on the field, good luck getting him off it again, assuming he's healthy.
The Buckeyes took an extra week to make sure Miller's knee sprain was closer to full strength in time for the visit from the Badgers, holding him out of the 76-0 victory over Florida A&M on Saturday after also missing the previous week's victory over California. Guiton filled in and carved up both defenses in record-setting fashion. And while Meyer estimated that the injury was still limiting Miller to about 90 percent of his usual ability, the goal is to have him completely whole by the end of the week -- and Meyer is clearly confident that will happen.
Assuming it does, finding more time for Guiton could be an issue regardless of how well he's performed since relieving Miller on the opening drive on Sept. 7 against San Diego State. Guiton's three-game run with 12 touchdown passes ranks as the most prolific stretch for any quarterback in Ohio State history. For many teams in the country, that output might be enough to turn a temporary audition into a full-time job.
But Miller earned those individual accolades for a reason last season, and as Meyer mentioned again Monday, the team accomplished something pretty special with him in control as well. So if Miller's knee allows him to run, if his stint watching from the sideline hasn't dulled his competitive fire, if his strong arm looks as sharp as it did throughout training camp, there is really no decision to be made.
The Buckeyes have toyed with the idea of getting both quarterbacks involved in the game plan, potentially even at the same time. But there's truly only one spot available, and it still belongs to Miller.
"I don’t know if [playing both together] is reality," Meyer said. "I keep thinking of a way because I love both those players; I think they’re good players. But I don’t know. If Kenny was a better wide receiver than one of our receivers, he’d be playing wide receiver. If Braxton was a better running back or something -- but they’re not.
"Someone has to come off the field."
It's pretty obvious for the Buckeyes who that will be.