Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Whether it was an apparent knee injury at Michigan State or a hit to the head versus Purdue, then-sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller made Ohio State football fans hold their breaths last season on multiple occasions when he had to leave the field due to injury.
Miller went through another injury scare Tuesday during the Buckeyes’ ninth practice of the spring football season. The reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year was slow to get up following a hit during a team scrimmage near the end of practice.
Following Tuesday’s practice, coach Urban Meyer said his junior quarterback was also hit during practice Thursday and is dealing with a sore rib.
Miller was clearly unhappy about the hit – it occurred after the ball was out of his hands – and he approached the defensive sideline to confront a teammate before being restrained by coaches. He returned to throw more passes later in the scrimmage.
Meyer said he was glad to see his quarterback’s competitive side even after the hit.
“I like quarterbacks that want to go get in a street fight and go after it,” Meyer said. “That’s not probably the time to do it, but he’s a competitor. So you’re asking what kind of reaction would I want out of a quarterback? … That’s better than the opposite, (to) just lay on the ground and curl up … He’s a tough kid.”
Offensive line issues
Junior offensive lineman Antonio Underwood suffered a torn ACL during practice Thursday, Meyer said Tuesday.
Meyer said it is a shame that Underwood suffered the injury, which will sideline him for at least a portion of the 2013 season. “For the first time in his career, he’s made a real push,” Meyer said of Underwood. “He’s going to have surgery, and we’ll see what happens, but he was having a heck of a spring.”
Meyer said Underwood was “fighting his way into the rotation.”
“He was in the top eight (offensive lineman on the depth chart),” Meyer said.
Losing Underwood is not Meyer’s only concern with his offensive line. Meyer and the Buckeyes are still trying to determine their starter at right tackle where they are replacing last year’s starter, Reid Fragel, whose OSU career concluded last fall.
Meyer said no one has established himself as a starter yet at the position, but it is currently a three-way competition between sophomore Taylor Decker, redshirt sophomore Chase Farris and redshirt freshman Pat Elflein.
“That’s the hardest position to make a jump,” Meyer said of the right tackle position.
Meyer said Decker, who was the early favorite to start, is “probably a little ahead of where Fragel was” at this point in the spring football season last year, as Fragel was still transitioning to the position after playing his first three OSU seasons at tight end. Meyer said Decker needs to make the same strides that Fragel did last season.
Offense and defense compete in scrimmages
The offense and defense competed against one another in a scrimmage to conclude Tuesday’s practice, which the offense won on a touchdown pass to the right rear corner of the end zone from redshirt senior quarterback Kenny Guiton to redshirt sophomore tight end Nick Vannett.
Points were awarded to the offense for first downs and touchdowns and to the defense for stops and forced turnovers, but Meyer declined a request to explain the scoring system.
“That’s between me and Mick (Mickey Marotti, assistant athletic director for football sports performance),” Meyer said.
Other scrimmage highlights included a 51-yard field goal made by senior kicker Drew Basil and a deep-ball interception returned past midfield by sophomore cornerback Armani Reeves, though Reeves was also beaten for a couple of deep pass completions.
The Buckeyes had a scrimmage Saturday as well, which Meyer said the defense won.
The Buckeyes will practice twice more this week on Thursday and Saturday, with Saturday’s practice being the program’s second annual Student Appreciation Day, which is open to students and begins at 11 a.m.
OSU has five more spring practices between this week and next week leading up to the LiFESports Spring Game, which will be played April 13 at 1 p.m. in Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.