Scrambling, but no running

By design, Miller and Guiton are 'caged tigers' in Buckeyes' practices

Updated: August 14, 2012, 6:25 PM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There aren't any chains on Ohio State's mobile legs.

Urban Meyer has dual-threat quarterbacks, and he's not going to discourage them at all from fully embracing their versatility.

But there's a limit to how far the Buckeyes coach wants his passers going during training camp. And while Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton certainly have plenty of room to stretch out and move around this month, at times they might as well be wearing shock collars when they get to the line of scrimmage.

"Our quarterbacks, on purpose, they're caged tigers right now," Meyer said. "They get quick whistles, they've got black shirts on them where they're not allowed to be touched, and obviously in our style of play, that changes the whole game.

"We're scrambling, but we're not running."

Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteUrban Meyer wants to keep quarterback Braxton Miller healthy until the hits start coming from opponents.
There's a clear distinction between those things for Meyer, with the dividing line between them extending sideline to sideline from where the ball is snapped.

Everything behind it is scrambling, and there are drills designed for an elusive athlete such as Miller to work on it while keeping his eyes down the field and keeping a play alive. The Buckeyes might go as long as 20 minutes at a time during a training camp workout not allowing Miller to throw the ball away or take off running, forcing the defense to stay in coverage and the quarterback to keep scanning the field.

That doesn't mean Meyer is trying to get Miller to abandon some of his better attributes, such as his acceleration or a knack for making would-be tacklers miss him. In fact, the Buckeyes are counting on him plenty to make things happen with the ball in his hands -- either by design as a rusher or when something breaks down in the passing game.

"If somebody comes up in the pocket and I have to use my feet, I'll use my feet," Miller said. "I'll make something happen. It comes down to that, I'm definitely going to try to make something good out of it."

His freshman season already proved he's more than capable of doing that, and he hasthe film and a team rushing title from last year to prove it.

For now, that's all the evidence Meyer needs. He isn't looking for more against Ohio State's own defense, so he can wait until the season starts before turning Miller completely loose.

"It's innate, but scrambling and running is different than scrambling and keeping your eyes downfield," Meyer said. "I think all great quarterbacks -- the pure drop-back, you can count them on one hand. The pure drop-back guys that never scramble, really don't do much [moving], to me that's a Peyton Manning. You see him, he just gets it out. Tom Brady and the other great player in Pittsburgh, [Ben] Roethlisberger, he makes something out of nothing.

"I think the great quarterbacks, the ones I want, are the ones that make something out of nothing. These two can do that, and we practice that a lot."

They still have to work on their responsibilities on the ground during practice as well, though the Buckeyes are obviously trying to shield their quarterbacks from contact and potential injury as much as they can in August.

It's a balancing act that must be managed with multipurpose weapons under center, since they need reps executing schemes such as zone-option plays that require quick reads and instincts just as much as pure athleticism. Meyer already can see that he's got a pair of guys with those physical tools, so the key is to make sure they're ready to show them off when it counts.

"We open that cage on Sept. 1," Meyer said. "Up until then, they won't be touched."

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter