The Miller Riddle
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — What exactly is Luke Fickell’s plan for Braxton Miller?
Photo by Jim Davidson
That is the question on the minds of Ohio State fans everywhere after watching senior Joe Bauserman take every snap at quarterback for the Buckeyes Saturday in their 27-22 win over Toledo.
Fickell said after the game that he had a plan for Miller, but it was disrupted—presumably by the blocked punt that led to the Rockets first touchdown.
“You've kind of got to adjust on the run. And you know, we are not going to look back on it,” Fickell said.
“We know that most importantly, we'll make sure that those guys’ minds are right and they understand the situation we are in.”
Good thing, because nobody else does.
First Fickell said that Miller didn’t play against Toledo because it never fit the flow of the game. Then he dropped this tidbit Tuesday about another possible reason the Buckeyes were hesitant to use their freshman quarterback over the weekend.
“Obviously you look back every week, and try to find ways that you can get better, but Braxton was dinged up a little bit,” Fickell announced.
“He practiced more so on Thursday and a little bit on Wednesday, but you know, we had a plan going in that maybe it didn't quite happen exactly how you do.”
So what Fickell is saying is that Miller available, but not really a part of their plan against Toledo because he missed some practice time last week with an injury.
“I didn't say that. I said that he was dinged up a little bit early in the week and we had a plan going in,” Fickell said.
“Maybe we adjusted the plan a little bit, but most important thing is that, hey, we're all moving forward with it.”
But forward in what direction? It has become obvious that the Ohio State coaches are much more trusting of Bauserman to make the right decision—which often included throwing the ball into the stands Saturday—than Miller, who was still trying to pick up the playbook at the end of fall camp.
The more he learns the more ‘available’ Miller might become for the Buckeyes.
“Getting him involved and getting him more in there is something that we want to do and we are going to have to just see how that happens as the whole next few weeks unfold,” Fickell said.
“A lot of that goes with preparation and I think each and every week, hopefully we can get a little more preparation, see a little bit more and have a little bit more confidence in everything that we are doing offensively with him or without him.”
Miller certainly appears to be a weapon the Buckeyes could use, but it’s important to keep in mind that he is still a freshman. There is a reason that Art Schlichter and Terrelle Pryor are the only true freshmen to start at quarterback for Ohio State.
It’s not easy, which is why the Buckeyes want to ease their youngster into the role rather than thrusting him out there in a bad situation.
“The communication with Braxton I think has been good. I think the way he's handled it has been really good,” Fickell said.
“Did he not have a headset on in some situations? Yes, because we want to just give him the play, as opposed to him hearing all of the other mumbo jumbo that's going on at times.”
Fickell and his offensive coaches have been trying to keep things simple for Miller as he adjusts to the college game, and they believe the best thing for him right now is to take everything in from the sideline.
“To me, that's how most of those guys learn, the more you can stress them to be a visual learner. That's what I think they are used to,” Fickell said.
“We are really trying to push them along visually to see what we want them to see, as opposed to just listening here and sometimes when you listen here, you know what's going to happen, so you stop paying attention at times and really processing it in your head.”
The question then becomes whether Miller knows how to properly process what he’s seeing without the help of the coaches. Quarterbacks coach Nic Siciliano is up in the booth and Stan Drayton has to work with his receivers when they come off the field, not to mention Bauserman.
Where does that leave Miller?
“He's done a good job. He prepares well. I think he's had a very good attitude about everything,” Fickell said.
“I think he understands the situation, and is obviously excited about his opportunities to become more and more. But you know, we are still going to focus on what's best for this team and what's best for this program.”
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