Monday, August 22, 2011

WHO WILL START AT QB? MILLER READY TO LEAD OFFENSE IF CHOSEN

Braxton Miller
COLUMBUS — Going into the third week of fall camp, the 18th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes are beginning to make their stretch run toward the season opener against Akron Sept. 3, and there are still some major questions that have yet to be answered.

Obviously, quarterback is the main focus for every Ohio State fan these days. In fact, it's become such a daily soap opera in Columbus and around Ohio that people — fans and media alike — are becoming overly critical of every pass thrown in camp. Was the throw on time? Did it have a tight spiral? Was it against the first or second unit? Was it on the first read or on a check down?

The competition began two weeks ago as a four-man battle between fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman, red-shirt sophomore Ken Guiton, red-shirt freshman Taylor Graham and true freshman Braxton Miller. However, during the second week of camp, the race was narrowed down to two — Bauserman and Miller. There's absolutely no doubt that both players will see action early in the season ... even if head coach Luke Fickell won't admit to it yet.

The main question now is ... which of the two is going to be the starter this season?

There has been a checklist, sort to speak, for evaluating the potential starter: Which player commits the least amount of turnovers? Who has more control of the huddle? Which has a better feel for the offense? Who performs the best when the action is live?

Thus far, things have been pretty even according to the aforementioned checklist. Where Bauserman looks to have a better knowledge of the system, the true freshman Miller looks the best of the two during live action.

Miller brought an element to Saturday's jersey scrimmage that Bauserman, nor any of the other two quarterbacks, could bring — an ability to beat the defense with supreme athleticism and natural play-making talents.

Fickell stated Sunday that there will be one more huge measuring stick before a full-time starter is named.

"We have to test them in front of 106,000 (fans)," Fickell said. "I don't know if you'll ever truly know until they get on the field. To see who really takes over and see what they can really do. It's tough to go live in practice. We did for a little bit yesterday (during jersey scrimmage), we put them in some situations where they had to react and respond with bullets coming at them."

If I were to put a paycheck on it, I would expect Bauserman to go against Akron — at least for the first series. Then it will be Miller's turn and so on ... Sort of like in 2008, when former head coach Jim Tressel started senior Todd Boeckman over true freshman Terrelle Pryor.

Tressel inserted Pryor early in the season opener that year and gave him many reps throughout the first three games, before naming him the full-time starter in week four.

Miller — like Pryor was in 2008 — is simply more talented than his quarterback teammates. It isn't a matter of, will Miller start this season for the Buckeyes ... but when? I'm guessing a lot sooner than week four.

The young star from Huber Heights (OH) said Sunday that although he has some things to work on, he feels ready to lead the Buckeyes' offense ... right now.

"Yeah, I am," Miller said, when asked if he's ready to lead the offense. "I just have to take my time and I've got to read out the things I've got to read and make the right decisions.

"I need to be more urgent in what I do, and do everything faster," Miller continued. "It's much different than high school. We have to do everything fast, fast. That's what I've got to get better at doing."

As for Fickell wanting to see his quarterbacks play "in front of 106,000" fans, Miller stated he's ready for the challenge.

"I haven't experienced it yet, but I won't have any jitter bugs at all," Miller smiled. "It will juice me up, I love it. It will be a lot of excitement for me and a lot of excitement for my parents and family. It will be my first time here, and I'll do what I do best: just try to lead the team."

FIELDS LOOKS TO BE SOLID NO. 3 ... There's some great competition going on at the wide receiver position for the Buckeyes during camp.

Sophomore Corey "Philly" Brown and red-shirt freshman Verlon Reed look to be the starters going into the regular season, as each have ran the most reps with the first unit during fall camp and done so at a very high level.

Also, the Buckeyes have two true freshmen out on the edge in Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, who have impressed so much during camp that each will surely see playing time this fall in Columbus.

However, stuck in the middle of the wideout battle is sophomore Chris Fields — a 6-foot, 180-pound native of Painesville (OH) who has been quietly having one of the best camps of any player on the team.

Fields has been a precise route runner in practice, and has displayed quickness and athleticism that is much needed in the slot.

During Saturday's jersey scrimmage at Ohio Stadium, Fields made the biggest play of the game, when he snared a deep pass from Miller and raced his way to the end zone untouched for a 58-yard score.

Fields, who had three catches for 22 yards last season, said he just has to keep making plays like that if he wants to continue in the Buckeyes' rotation out wide.

"That was big," Fields said of his touchdown Saturday. "Braxton threw it back shoulder and I kind of had some leverage on the defender. I just made a play.

"You've got to make plays when the ball's thrown to you."

SABINO HAS BROKEN HAND ... Junior outside linebacker Etienne Sabino broke his left hand in Saturday's jersey scrimmage. During media day on Sunday, Sabino was wearing a cast on his hand but stated adamantly that he will be ready for Akron week one.

"I'll be good for the opener, don't worry," Sabino said. "If I have to play with a cast on that's what I'll do."

PRYOR A RAIDER ... The Oakland Raiders selected former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor on Monday during the NFL supplemental draft.

The Raiders spent a third round selection on Pryor, who will be suspended by the league for the first five games of the regular season. It has been reported that Oakland is more interested with Pryor as a receiver.