Thursday, September 22, 2011

FICKELL CONFIRMS IT'S MILLER TIME

Braxton Miller
The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
COLUMBUS — It seemed earlier in the week — judging by the body language of Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell — that major changes were coming soon for the Buckeyes' football team.

On Thursday, those physical tells were confirmed.

Fickell officially named true freshman Braxton Miller as his starting quarterback for Saturday's home contest against Colorado, getting the nod over fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman, who started the first three games of the season.

"It's time to give him a shot," Fickell said of Miller.

Thus far, Miller hasn't been given much of a shot, to the dismay of Buckeye fans who continually booed Fickell for not inserting him into the game the last time the team played at home on Sept. 10 against Toledo.

Miller has seen about three quarters of work total this season thru three games.

During the season opener against Akron, Miller played just one series in the first half — where he had a pass dropped by his tight end and a poor snap from his all-American center in the shotgun — before getting pulled by Fickell. He wouldn't be reinserted until the midway point of the third quarter.

Miller didn't see any playing time against Toledo in week two, and then saw limited — off and on — action against Miami (Fla.) in a nationally televised, primetime game on the road. In the 24-6 loss to the 'Canes, Fickell pulled Miller on a first down play in the third quarter after a botched handoff attempt.

Fickell said Thursday that he wanted to make sure everything was good in the locker room before thrusting the multi-talented signal caller into the full-time role.

"I think all decisions like that, because they're so publicized, are tough decisions," Fickell said. "You have to think about the morale of the team and how it affects different things."

Miller, who was one of the most highly touted signal callers in the nation last season coming out of Huber Heights (OH) Wayne High School, brings an element to the game that is reminiscent of former Ohio State and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Troy Smith.

Miller possesses a strong arm and a quick release, but also can make plays with his legs that one simply can't teach.

Fickell understands that the offensive play-calling must serve the youngster well, if the Buckeyes are to progress moving forward.

"He's got a lot of ability," Fickell said of Miller. "We're going to give him some opportunities to play with his ability. It's what we think right now the team really needs."

Miller, in limited action this season, is 10-of-16 passing for 156 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He has also rushed the ball 13 times for 62 yards.