Saturday, April 23, 2011

OHIO STATE FRESHMAN BRAXTON MILLER LEADS SCARLET TO VICTORY

Ohio State freshman quarterback Braxton Miller (5) runs the football during Saturday's spring game at Ohio Stadium. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)
COLUMBUS — Although it is still very early in the process, Ohio State true-freshman quarterback Braxton Miller may have moved ahead of the competition in the battle for Terrelle Pryor's replacement under center.

The young signal caller displayed during Saturday's spring game at Ohio Stadium why he is the crown jewel of the 2011 recruiting class, showing poise, a strong arm and great escape-ability in the Scarlet's 59-27 win over the Gray. The freshman from Huber Heights (OH) finished Saturday's scrimmage 7-of-12 in the air for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also added 19 yards rushing on four carries.

Not too bad for a player who just four months ago was attending classes in high school. Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel said after the game that they have brought Miller along slowly, but did state that he is certainly in the running to be the starter during Pryor's five-game suspension to begin the season.

"Braxton probably hasn't had as much time with the first and second units as the other three guys, but he needed to learn the plays and so forth. We didn't want to send the young guy in and foul up those first couple of units," Tressel said of Miller, who only has 15 practices under his belt as a Buckeye. "We wanted to bring him along slowly ... We're going to play who we need to (to start the season), and that doesn't exclude Braxton."

Miller had perhaps his best practice of the spring on Saturday, leading the Buckeyes' offense on two scoring drives in the win.

On the first score — under Miller — the Buckeyes drove 92 yards on 14 plays. Miller completed five of his six passes on the scoring drive (to three different receivers) for 47 yards, including a beautiful 20-yard strike over the middle to senior DeVier Posey that put the Scarlet inside the Gray 25. A few plays later, tailback Jordan Hall punched it across the chalk from five yards out to give the Scarlet a 33-17 lead.

On the second scoring drive under Miller — this time starting at the Gray 25 — the young passer put one on the scoreboard through the air, hitting sophomore wide receiver Corey "Philly" Brown in the right side of the end zone from 15 yards out. That would be Miller's final play of a very productive outing on Saturday afternoon.

"I thought Braxton played a little bit more relaxed today," Tressel said. "I think he had a little bit more fun than he has had."

Ohio State senior center Mike Brewster was impressed with Miller's performance and handle on the offense, especially with it being just his 15th practice with the team.

"The quarterback-center relationship is a hard one to learn in three weeks," Brewster said. "Today we shrunk the playbook and I think he felt more comfortable. He has a really quick release and it was great to see him relax.

"He improvises and he can find guys. Today was the best I've seen him play all spring."

Miller wasn't the only quarterback, though, who had some success on Saturday. Each of the other three quarterbacks — although not as consistent as Miller — did record a touchdown pass in the Scarlet's win. Red-shirt freshman Taylor Graham finished the game with 91 yards on 4-of-9 passing, including a 68-yard scoring strike to T.Y. Williams on a deep ball down the right sideline.

Sophomore Kenny Guiton finished 5-of-11 passing for 43 yards in the win, including a 17-yard touchdown toss to Verlon Reed on a fade route in the right backside of the end zone. Senior Joe Bauserman, who struggled most of the scrimmage, did end on a high note hitting Ryan Ross for a 16-yard score on the final play of the day. Bauserman completed just four of his 11 passes for 42 yards.

Although the Scarlet won the scrimmage — mostly because of the slanted scoring system implemented by Tressel — the Buckeyes' defensive front were perhaps the most dominating unit of the entire scrimmage.

Ohio State's defense recorded seven sacks in the game, and pressured the Buckeye passers all scrimmage long. Nathan Williams (Bauserman), Dominic Clarke (Bauserman), Dorian Bell (Graham), Joel Hale (Graham), J.T. Moore (Graham), Jeremy Cash (Graham) and Jordan Whiting (Graham) each contributed a sack for the Gray squad.

The offense may have won the overall war, but the defense won most of the battles.

Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat led the game with 10 tackles.

TAILBACK COMPETITION ... Just like with the quarterbacks, there has been a huge battle going on this spring in the backfield to see which runner will replace the suspended Dan Herron for the first five games of the 2011 season.

If Saturday's scrimmage was any indication, junior Jordan Hall may be that guy.

Hall finished with 37 yards on eight carries, including the only rushing score of the contest. He also snagged two receptions from Miller for 21 yards in the win.

Herron added 37 yards on six totes, while freshman Rod Smith added 36 on seven carries.