- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There are no answers yet, but the two most important players to Ohio State’s 2013 season each have different ways of dodging the question.
Deadly serious and locked into preparation for Indiana, outside linebacker Ryan Shazier stressed several times that he didn’t have time to think about anything else right now.
Playful, smiling and quick with a few laughs, quarterback Braxton Miller acted surprised that the discussion was even happening and refused to take part in it.
Eventually, the linchpin of the defense and the centerpiece of the spread offense will have to come to a decision about their final seasons of eligibility in 2014. It will have a significant impact on the Buckeyes a year from now. But neither player is ready to do that yet, and in their own way did everything they could to avoid addressing the possibility that Saturday’s home date with Indiana could be the final time they play at Ohio Stadium.
“Who, me?” Miller said. “Oh, I ain’t talking about that.
“I haven’t thought about it at all. I had that early injury, so you know, I don’t know. Hopefully, I’m trying to get better for myself and my teammates, and we’ll go out there and win games.”
Miller has won plenty of games in the last two seasons during Ohio State’s unbeaten run, and the junior quarterback has clearly made notable improvement as a passer to complement his incredible athleticism as a rusher.
Shazier has been just as integral on the other side of the football, far and away the most prolific contributor across the board defensively while also becoming a respected leader and the glue for a unit that currently has only two other starters from last season in the lineup.
The Buckeyes already know they’ll be losing cornerback Bradley Roby to the NFL, but that information has been readily available since spring camp and has given the coaching staff plenty of time to plan ahead as they try to replace him. But if Miller and Shazier decide to follow Roby and forgo their final seasons of eligibility, filling those voids could be a much bigger chore for a program that will again have national championship aspirations -- a goal that would be much easier to chase down with a Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the nation’s best linebackers on hand.
Of course, for three or four more games, the Buckeyes still have Roby, Miller and Shazier. And they remain in the mix for the crystal football, which has the NFL conversation on hold.
“That’s real,” Meyer said. “At some point [we will talk about it], but it's after the season, between the bowl game and end of the season.
“I've sat in a lot of those meetings. We'll probably have a couple this year, but not yet.”
The top candidates for those discussions aren’t hard to identify, and Shazier's draft stock in particular is rising with another dynamic campaign. He leads the Buckeyes with 88 tackles and the Big Ten with 14.5 tackles for loss. Shazier could potentially be a first-round draft pick if he elects to come out, but the opinions on Miller are harder to gauge at this point.
While Miller has been far more accurate this season, completing 68 percent of his attempts, he has been among the first to admit there is still room for him to grow as a passer. And with the 2014 draft class expected to be loaded with talented quarterbacks, that crowded marketplace might provide an incentive to return for another year of seasoning with Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
But the coaches aren’t making a pitch for that at this point, and neither Miller nor Shazier are giving anything away publicly.
“Honestly, I’m not being coy. I hadn’t given it two thoughts,” Herman said. “I’m sure with some of the juniors that the discussion is happening with, we’ll talk about it after the bowl game and advise them.
“I haven’t given it any thought.”
If either Shazier or Miller have been mulling it over, they each have a unique way of disguising it.
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