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Thursday, September 22, 2011
Future is now for Braxton Miller, Buckeyes

By Brian Bennett

Luke Fickell confirmed on Thursday what every Ohio State fan hoped was coming: Braxton Miller is the Buckeyes' new starting quarterback.

The true freshman replaces senior Joe Bauserman a week after Bauserman struggled mightily at Miami, completing just 2-of-14 passes. Now it's Miller time against Colorado on Saturday.

Braxton Miller
Braxton Miller will get his first start Saturday against Colorado.
It's a bold choice considering that Fickell is basically putting the team in the hands of a very green player at the game's most important position, especially considering Fickell is only on a one-year contract. He's attaching his sail to a quarterback who's bound to make mistakes; Miller threw an interception and fumbled twice against the Hurricanes. The one thing you could say in Bauserman's favor was that he is nearly allergic to forcing throws into tight coverage and he values ball security.

But what other choice did Fickell have, really? It became pretty clear in the Toledo game and then painfully obvious in South Florida that Bauserman doesn't have the tools to be a big-time playmaker, at least not given the Buckeyes' inexperience at receiver. Were this a typical Ohio State offense not ravaged by suspensions and injury, then perhaps a game manager like Bauserman would be the correct choice to run the show.

This Buckeyes team, however, needs all the help it can get moving the ball forward. And Miller, for all he lacks in experience, has the one skill that's hard to replace: the kid can run away from defenders when there's trouble. Now defenses must constantly be aware of Miller's ability to tuck the ball and take off as well as his passing. The running game with Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith is already the offense's strength, and now it has another option.

I'd say the passing game might be scaled back a bit now with a freshman under center, but could it really get any smaller than it was last week?

It's fascinating that Miller takes over as the starter in Game 4, just as Terrelle Pryor did in 2008 as a freshman. Of course, Miller would likely be wearing a baseball cap and holding a clipboard if Pryor were still in school. The Buckeyes would love for Miller to match Pryor's 8-1 record as a starter his freshman season.

But fans who expect Miller to come in and be the savior are probably unrealistic. He's a talented player, but he hasn't exactly lit the world on fire during his limited time in two games this season. The Ohio State offense still has issues in the receiving game, which may not be solved until DeVier Posey returns. The Buckeyes don't want to throw Bauserman overboard, but he can still help this team if Miller gets hurt or is ineffective.

And yet this move gives a boost of excitement not only to a fan base hungry for a change but potentially for a team that has had a rough two weeks on the field. The future begins now for Miller and the Buckeyes.