Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Fans in attendance at Saturday’s Ohio State football game against Colorado at Ohio Stadium might witness the dawn of a new era when freshman quarterback Braxton Miller makes his first start for the Scarlet and Gray.
First-year OSU head coach Luke Fickell said at a Tuesday press conference that all four Buckeyes’ quarterbacks would compete for playing time at practice this week. Fickell then announced Thursday during his radio show, “The Luke Fickell Call-In Show,” that Miller will make the first start of his collegiate career this weekend.
Miller was selected over freshman Taylor Graham and redshirt sophomore Ken Guiton, neither of whom have taken a snap in OSU’s first three games. Miller also bested redshirt senior Joe Bauserman, who started each of the Buckeyes’ first three games.
“It’s a ‘give him a shot,'” Fickell said on the radio. “The reality is, it is a big thing. But we need both of them (Miller and Bauserman). The way we handle it is key.
“But it’s time to give him a chance.”
Jay Minton, Miller’s coach at Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio, told The Lantern that he felt like “a kid on Christmas” when he learned that his former player would start Saturday’s game.
By Minton’s estimation, before arriving at OSU, Miller had started every game he’s played since the second game of his freshman season in high school. Minton said he thinks Miller has handled the situation very well at OSU and will do his best for the Buckeyes.
“When he gets in the big game … he’s a different person when he starts,” said Minton, who frequently texts Miller. “He is ultra-competitive and he does such a good job of focusing.”
Miller was a highly recruited quarterback out of high school. Rivals.com rated Miller as the No. 2 quarterback in the country. However, Miller’s decision to attend OSU was made very early in the recruiting process. Before ever committing to OSU, Miller had OSU’s ‘Block O’ tattooed to his upper arm.
Steve Helwagen, bucknuts.com editor, said that he felt Fickell was forced to change quarterbacks based on Bauserman’s performance.
“Bauserman’s play got progressively worse,” Helwagen said. “You start a guy who was 2 of 14 (passing). You wouldn’t see that at any level of football anywhere in the country.”
For the year, Bauserman is 30 of 60 passing for 365 yards and four touchdown passes, though he managed only two completions on 14 attempts for 13 yards in the Buckeyes’ 24-6 loss to Miami.
Miller, who is 10 of 16 passing for 152 yards, one touchdown and one interception on the year, will step into the starting job in a manner similar to former OSU signal caller Terrelle Pryor.
Nick Durkin, a third-year in health information management, said starting Miller is needed after last week’s game.
“I think it is the right move,” Durkin said. “The team needs a new direction after the game vs. Miami.”
Like Miller, Pryor was called upon to start for the Buckeyes’ in the fourth game of his freshman season. Pryor replaced former OSU quarterback Todd Boeckman.
“(The Buckeyes) went 8-1 with Pryor as a starter,” Helwagen said. “And if they could do something like that with Braxton this year, it would be huge.”
Despite the fact that OSU is entering Week 4 of its schedule, Miller has only two games worth of experience.
Austin Cummings, a third-year in exploration, said a switch of starting quarterbacks for Saturday will be a good thing for the team.
“I think this will give him the chance to break out of his shell,” Cummings said. “He hasn’t really gotten that chance yet.”
The Buckeyes defeated Toledo 27-22 on Sept. 10, though Miller did not play a single snap in the game. Fickell said the decision not to play Miller was “a gut decision.”
“He didn’t get to play that game for whatever reason,” Helwagen said. “If he had three games under his belt … what does (Miller) have to hang his hat on?”
Miller now has until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, when OSU kicks-off against Colorado, to continue to improve.
Saturday’s match-up with the Buffaloes is the Buckeyes’ final non-conference test, and Big Ten opponents Michigan State, Nebraska and Illinois await the Buckeyes in the weeks to follow. Helwagen said that Miller would have to learn OSU’s offense quickly as the Buckeyes prepare for what he estimates is the most crucial portion of its schedule.
Still, Helwagen said he believes that the team will still have a chance to win the Leaders Division and advance to the Big Ten conference championship game.
“Here in the interim, they can’t afford to lose a game they should win (against Colorado,)” he said. “But then they get into the divisional part of their schedule and that’s the key to the season. A switch had to be made and I guess we’ll find out if Braxton’s ready or not.”
OSU football historian, Jack Park, said he is not surprised that Miller is starting, and thinks the team will rally around him well.
“I would have been surprised if they didn’t start Miller,” Park said. “Considering Bauserman’s performance last weekend.”
Miller’s opportunity comes in the wake of the tattoo-gate scandal which resulted in the forced resignation of former head coach Jim Tressel. Pryor, senior runningback Dan Herron, senior wide receiver DeVier Posey, senior offensive lineman Mike Adams and senior defensive lineman Solomon Thomas all received a five-game suspension for their involvement in the scandal. Pryor left the university in June to pursue a career in the NFL.
Minton said he is confident in Miller.
“I expect him to make the plays he’s supposed to make and lead the offense,” he said. “I’m sure he’s up on his toes a little more now. He’s just got to engineer the offense. He’s ready.”
Dan Hope and Chelsea Castle contributed to this story.