Ohio State bowl players to watch

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
1:00
PM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A closer look at the key players for No. 7 Ohio State and what's on the line for them as the Buckeyes prepare for a marquee matchup in the Discover Orange Bowl against No. 12 Clemson.

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesBraxton Miller completed only 46 percent of his passes in Ohio State's last four games this season.
QB Braxton Miller: The spotlight is always on the junior quarterback, but he appears to be welcoming even more attention on his game heading into the postseason and what might be an audition for NFL scouts and general managers as he weighs his options for next season. Miller struggled throwing the ball down the stretch, and the Buckeyes clearly were limited offensively in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State. Unable to throw downfield, they had no way to unpack the crowded box aimed at slowing him and Carlos Hyde down as rushing threats.

The biggest question about Miller's professional future always has been about unlocking his potential as a passer, because the rest of his talents aren't up for debate. He might benefit from another season with the program, but if Miller is able to carve up a Clemson defense that ranks No. 16 in the nation in pass defense, that might tip the scales for him to skip his senior season.

DT Michael Bennett: The junior already is committed to returning for another season with the Buckeyes after his breakout campaign up front. That will give the program a complete unit returning just a year after having to replace all four starters. Bennett was somewhat overlooked on the postseason awards circuit, but he quietly has become one of the most important pieces of the defense and an absolute terror for opponents when he's healthy.

A couple of nagging injuries kept him from having that impact quite as consistently as perhaps Ohio State would want, but he still finished the season with 11.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. Against a high-powered Clemson offense with a productive quarterback, Bennett will play a critical role in collapsing the pocket, pressuring Tajh Boyd and trying to force some mistakes to help out a battered secondary.

S Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell: Urban Meyer has vowed changes, though for the most part the Ohio State coach has kept any that he might be considering close to his vest. But when it comes to personnel, he at least mentioned one potential candidate by name after practice on Wednesday, and it could be time for Bell to get thrown into the fire as the Buckeyes start preparing for the future. Meyer wouldn't make that move, though, unless it could have some short-term benefit in a BCS game.

Bell's solid work on special teams, extra opportunities to develop him on the practice field this month and a few recent issues on the field for Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown might have opened the door for the touted freshman against the Tigers. Powell has been a fixture in the nickel and conceivably could make a smoother transition into an expanded role given his edge in experience, but either way, he and Bell seem likely to see more of the field in the Discover Orange Bowl.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter

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