Miller gets starting nod but Guiton should play

Published 1:27 am Friday, September 27, 2013

COLUMBUS (AP) — A lot of top college teams have trouble finding one quality quarterback.

No. 4 Ohio State has two.

The problem for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is he can only play one at a time and both have played well enough to start.

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Braxton Miller, back from an injured knee, will get the starting nod against No. 23 Wisconsin on Saturday night, Meyer said after Wednesday’s practice.

“I think Braxton will probably start. He had a good day today and it looks like he’s pretty close to 100 percent,” Meyer said. “I just wanted to make sure running the ball he’s good, too. And he was. And Kenny’s good.”

Then he voiced the problem that is clearly bothering him.

“We’re still working through exactly how we’re going to use them, to manage the game,” he said. “But they both look good.”

Even if Miller starts, who plays the most? And who finishes?

Guiton is coming off three terrific games and back-to-back Big Ten offensive player of the week honors. But he is still behind Miller, recovering from a sprained knee ligament

It’s a luxury, but at the same time it’s something else to worry about.

Meyer hasn’t figured out how, when or how much — of even if — he’ll use Guiton.

“That’s tough. That’s tough. I’ve had experience playing two in 2006 and it’s hard,” he said, referring to his national championship season at Florida when he had both Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at quarterback. “When a guy gets a hot hand, or if he doesn’t get the hot hand, then when does he go back in? That’s a decision I can only make by myself. So we’ll see.”

On the Buckeyes’ most recent two-deep chart they’re listed as co-starters.

Now, it’s not as if the offense can’t run a play until it knows who its triggerman will be. Neither candidate just came in off the waiver wire. All of those practices in the heat of August and throughout the past three seasons have created a familiarity which is helpful.

“Our offense really doesn’t change a ton,” receivers coach Zach Smith said of the nuances between Miller and Guiton. “There may be certain plays that we like better with Braxton or that we like better with Kenny.”

Miller has started for over two years. He was the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year in 2012 while leading the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior, who sprained the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee early in the second game of the season, needs just 13 yards to pass Cornelius Greene as Ohio State’s rushing leader among quarterbacks (2,080 yards).

Of course, as that last note indicates, Miller’s forte is scrambling or taking off on designed runs. He is also a serviceable passer, but his injury may limit his ability to make cuts — his strength.

If he is even slightly hindered in that regard, Meyer may elect to go with Guiton.

An overlooked high school player from Texas, Guiton was stuck on the sideline for most of his first three seasons at Ohio State before he was called on to replace the injured Miller in the fourth quarter of last year’s game against Purdue. The 6-3, 208-pound fifth-year senior led an improbable 61-yard drive in the final minute, completing a touchdown pass and then converting on a two-point conversion pass with 3 seconds left to force overtime. The Buckeyes ended up winning, preserving their perfect record.

When Miller went down early in the San Diego State game, Guiton came in as if he had been ordained as one of the Heisman Trophy favorites, not Miller. Things haven’t changed in the two games since, either. He’s completing better than 68 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns with two interceptions. He’s also run for 186 yards and a score.

Sometimes it seems as if their teammates have difficulty differentiating between the two.

“Kenny G provides a lot of excitement with his play because everybody’s excited to see Kenny do well. He’s a great guy, even better player. ‘Kenny G’s out there!’, the crowd’s going, ‘Kenny G!”’ center Corey Linsley said. “But (Braxton) has got that quickness, that spark, that no one else in the nation has. You can talk about (Texas A&M’s Heisman Trophy winner) Johnny Manziel all you want, there’s nobody out there quicker at the quarterback position than Braxton.”

Wisconsin isn’t holding its breath to find out either way.

“They’re both good players,” first-year Badgers coach Gary Andersen said. “It doesn’t change our approach whatsoever with whichever quarterback is playing.”

Meyer says he and his assistants have spent “hours and hours of discussion the last few days” on the quarterbacks. They’ve weighed the pros and cons of starting and playing each.

They’ve even looked at playing them at the same time, although that just created more and longer discussions.

“I don’t know if that’s reality,” Meyer said of playing them together. “I keep thinking, ‘I just love both those players.’ If Kenny was a better wide receiver than one of our receivers, he would be playing receiver; if Braxton was a better running back (than our running backs, then he’d be playing). But they are not.

“And so someone has to come off the field. I just I haven’t decided how we are going to do it.”

Game time is 8 p.m., Coach.


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