Ohio State is taking things slowly with Braxton Miller. So slowly, in fact, that if the Buckeyes were to open their season tomorrow, the Heisman hopeful and senior quarterback would be limited in how much he plays and what he could do.
"If the game was tomorrow, we'd be very cautious with Braxton," coach Urban Meyer said Sunday at the team's annual Media Day. "But we have three weeks."
Still, it seems cause for concern for Miller, who had shoulder surgery in February, and for a team that'll so heavily rely on his talents and treasures. Miller was limited during the team's practices last week, but tossed the ball lightly during warmups Saturday.
Meyer, though, maintains it's part of a larger plan to ease Miller into the grind of training camp and two-a-days. So does Miller, who said "I can throw right now" before playfully asking a reporter if he’d like to go run a route so he can prove it.
Ohio State opens the season against Navy Aug. 30 in Baltimore.
- Meyer also confirmed Ezekiel Elliott’s wrist surgery and said he expects to have the sophomore running back in practice some time next week. Meyer’s current running back order is as follows: Elliott, Rod Smith, Curtis Samuel, and Bri'onte Dunn. But Meyer, who will have to replace former star running back Carlos Hyde, won't name a starter yet.
- Meyer said his offense will rely on the quick-passing game more than ever next season. “Last year, we got comfortable with that big back and that offensive line.” In addition to Hyde, Ohio State will have to replace four offensive lineman.
- Meyer said a battle for the starting left guard position is currently between Antonio Underwood, Joel Hale and Billy Price.
- Meyer said Dontre Wilson has gained 20 pounds since coming to Columbus. Last season, Meyer called Wilson a “novelty” and a “hood ornament” and stressed the importance of turning the talented recruit from an athlete into a football player. Meyer said Wilson, who’s expected to start at H-back, is in the mix to be the team’s starting kick/punt returner.
- Ohio State move into its team hotel last Thursday. It started two-a-days Saturday morning: “This next week is real ... you find out what kind of team you have."
- Meyer continued to gush about freshman running back Curtis Samuel: "I love that kid. Man does he go hard." Meyer said Samuel “stole his heart” while on ESPN a couple weeks ago.
- In light of the NCAA approving autonomy for the Power Five conferences and a federal court ruling in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon in a major antitrust lawsuit, Meyer largely sidestepped talking about big-picture issues. On autonomy: “(Athletic director) Gene (Smith) and I will sit down at some point, but not now." On the O’Bannon trial: "I apologize, I know I should probably be more up to speed on that, but I'm not." Meyer eventually started playfully deferring to such questions by responding “Navy” or “Na-vy” or “Beat Navy.”
- Meyer said he think this year’s team is faster than its 2013 squad: “If you had to say the difference between last year's team and this year's team, we're faster.” Meyer added this has the feel of a “very good team.”
- Players who have impressed Meyer in fall camp thus far: Tyvis Powell, Vonn Bell, Dontre Wilson, Corey Smith, Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall. All are expected to have considerable impact on the field next season.
- After finishing the year 112th in pass defense, Meyer vowed wholesale changes on defense and said the unit was undergoing an “overhaul" in the spring. After the departures of assistant coaches Everett Withers and Mike Vrabel, Meyer hired co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash and defensive line coach Larry Johnson to help reestablish a culture that he says got lost. And when coaches’ individual cultures and philosophies mesh, it’s called alignment. Meyer put his staff’s current alignment in the “great category.”
- Part of that overhaul includes replacing former All-American linebacker Ryan Shazier: “Joshua Perry has to step up and play big, he's replacing Shazier,” Meyer said. The Buckeyes will also rely on senior Curtis Grant, redshirt freshman Darron Lee and a handful of younger players like Raekwon McMillan to provide depth for a unit that’s underperformed the last two years.
- Former Texas coach Mack Brown was at Ohio State today. Meyer called Brown a close friend. Charlie Strong, who coach as an assistant under Meyer at Florida, took over the Longhorns in place of Brown last winter.