Thursday, August 11, 2011

MOELLER MAKING ANOTHER RETURN; QB BATTLE STILL GOING STRONG

Tyler Moeller
TBT/Darla Dunkle
COLUMBUS — My apologies to Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor, but no player or coach at Ohio State has gone through more trials and tribulations in the past two years than senior defensive back, Tyler Moeller.

Two summers ago while on vacation in Florida with his family, Moeller suffered a major head injury after being brutally attacked inside a sports bar in Treasure Island. After being sucker-punched from behind by the attacker, Moeller hit his head hard on the ground and had to spend three nights in a hospital near Tampa.

Upon returning to Ohio a few days later, Moeller had to be rushed to the hospital again to have surgery, where they relieved bleeding on his brain. The native of Cincinnati nearly lost his life.

Even though he eventually pulled through, everyone had deemed his career in football deceased.

Well ... everyone but Moeller himself.

"Personally, there was never really a time where I thought to myself that I wasn't going to ever play again," Moeller told The Buckeye Times last summer. "Even when I just got done with surgery, I was imagining coming back and being able to play again."

Those imaginations would come to fruition.

After sitting out the entire 2009 season, Moeller made a triumphant return to the gridiron in 2010 and imposed his will on opposing offenses the way he did before the head injury, recording 20 tackles (4.5 for loss), a sack, an interception and two forced fumbles in the first five games of the season.

However, luck wouldn't be on Moeller's side again during a game at Illinois in October. He tore his pectoral muscle in the first half against the Illini and was lost for the season.

Of course — after all he had gone through — a chest injury wasn't about to keep Moeller from playing football again, that was certain. But being a fifth-year senior, his chances of playing for the Buckeyes ever again looked as bleak as his prognosis following his assault in Florida.

In November, though, the NCAA granted Moeller a sixth year, ruling that the assault shouldn't have cost him a year of eligibility.

Two years following the attack, and 10 months after a season-ending pectoral tear, Moeller is back on the football field in Columbus, preparing for his final go round with the Buckeyes.

"I'm a little rusty right now," Moeller joked on Thursday after practice. "But I feel great."

Co-defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said he's ecstatic for Moeller and admits that he's rooting for his veteran defensive back.

"Of course I am (rooting for Moeller)," Haynes smiled. "I know how much football means to him and all that he's gone though in the past two, three years. He's a passionate player out there, I love seeing him back and doing what he loves."

Known as a tough guy type on the field, Moeller thrives on being physical and flying around with reckless abandon. Haynes said he loves that about Moeller, but admits that it's extremely taxing on the nerves trying to keep him healthy in practice.

"We're just trying to keep him healthy out here, and get him back to playing at a high level," Haynes said of Moeller, who is the Buckeyes' first-team nickelback. "But it is hard to get him to dial it down a notch sometimes because he's such a physical guy. He loves to hit."

Moeller agrees with Haynes final sentiments ...

"Yeah, I love hitting," Moeller laughed. "I love the toughness of the game. I'm excited to get in (full) pads tomorrow and get after things."

After all that Moeller's gone through in the past two years — and to still be able to play at a high level — has to rank him up there with some of the greatest 'tough guys' who have ever played the game.

Of course, Moeller said he isn't exactly a glutton for punishment, though. Superman does have his kryptonite ...

"Two-a-days are terrible," Moeller laughed. "You get out there the first day and you get banged up a little bit and you're tired and then you come back here and have a 100-percent practice. They're tough. But we have to make sure they're productive and just grind through them."

Moeller has looked impressive thus far during the first week of practice. He said there's still some bumps in the road, but nothing that will prevent him from doing what he loves to do — play football.

"I really feel great," Moeller said. "I have a little kink somewhere in my brace right now, but I feel healthy out there. I'm just excited to get the season going."

QB COMPETITION KEEPS ON GOING ... The battle for the Buckeyes starting quarterback position is still the one everyones watching with a magnifying glass this week in camp.

Each quarterback has had their moments, but none have displayed real consistency as of yet.

On Thursday, red-shirt sophomore Ken Guiton looked the most impressive of the group. He's playing loose and is displaying good leadership skills on the field, as well. He also had some nice throws in 7-on-7 drills, including a crisp, tight spiral over the middle to senior DeVier Posey, who galloped 35 yards to paydirt.

Braxton Miller — who has been looked at by many as the frontrunner to start under center this season — had an inconsistent practice once again Thursday. The true freshman had trouble connecting with receivers due to inaccurate throws, and seemed more comfortable just tucking the ball under his arm and running.

He did show flashes of his talents Thursday, completing a couple throws on the move, but as of right now he isn't playing instinctively. Perhaps that's because he's cramming a lot of information in his head right now ...

"I'm still learning the system and taking little baby steps," Miller said. "I'm learning the routes better, I'm starting to know what they're doing more and more. Just got to keep working hard and I'll get there."

PLAYS OF THE DAY ... In 11-on-11 scrimmage drills, sophomore tailback Jaamal Berry, went through the line on the left side, did a reverse spin, bounced it to the right and raced about 40 yards to the end zone untouched.

Later in the practice, sophomore tailback Carlos Hyde, took a handoff off the right side and raced down the sideline for about 15 yards before being stripped by safety Zach Domicone. The fumble was recovered by nickelback Christian Bryant, who took it to the house.

One play later, Hyde made amends by hauling in a swing pass from Miller and taking it about 25 yards down the left sideline for a first down and a massive collision between he and Domicone around midfield.