Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is optimistic about Braxton Miller’s status for the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin on Saturday, but Meyer has been fooled before about the health of his quarterback.
He thought Miller had gotten far enough along with his sprained left knee to take some snaps against Florida A&M last week, but the junior was scratched just before kickoff.
“It just wasn’t stable and it would have been not right,” Meyer said at his press luncheon Monday. “And it wasn’t just Braxton (making the call). Myself, the strength coach and the quarterback coach all got together. A lot of things happen at the quarterback position. Someone falls on you, even if you’re handing off …
“My idea was just to get him in the game (to get the rust off), but it was a mutual decision.”
Miller has missed almost three full games since getting injured on the opening series against San Diego State on Sept. 7. But the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year practiced Sunday and reportedly looked like the Miller of old.
He’s been rehabbing and doing extra conditioning, and he didn’t hold back while running the offense.
Asked how he felt about Miller’s return for the Badgers, Meyer said: “From what I saw yesterday, much more confident. I mean, he had a very good day yesterday.
“I’m saying he’s around 90 (percent) right now. He’ll be a 100 by next week, I’m hoping.”
To senior center Corey Linsley, Miller already appears 100 percent.
“He did look phenomenal yesterday,” Linsley said. “He ran the ball and was whizzing past me, and I was like, ‘OK, he’s back.’
“Not everybody gets to see the work he’s putting in behind the scenes. But it’s definitely going to come out Saturday.”
Backup QB Kenny Guiton won his second straight Big Ten offensive player of the week award for his play against Florida A&M and has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the last two games.
Meyer won’t hesitate to make Miller the starter again once he’s cleared because of his body of work, but having Guiton as an understudy is a luxury few teams have.
“I will tell you this: I’m very comfortable with both quarterbacks,” Meyer said.
Guiton set an OSU record with six TD passes against FAMU, all in the first half. For a breakout performance against Cal — 276 yards passing, 92 rushing — he was named the Walter Camp national offensive player of the week.
“Braxton is 13-0 as a starter. He’s done very well. But Kenny is a guy who has shown me he can go in (and do well), and I didn’t know that. Even last year against Purdue, when he came in and won that, I just didn’t see that in practice,” Meyer said.
“I’m one of those guys who doesn’t believe in ‘gamers.’ You won’t hear that word around here. It’s ‘practicer.’ I just didn’t see that. But I’ve seen improvement and improvement, and that’s where you have to go back to Tom Herman, who’s a heck of a quarterback coach. … There’s a really good mesh between those two. That’s why he’s become a very good quarterback.”
But Guiton also has faced porous defenses. And while he’s an expert distributor of the ball with a natural feel for the offense — and has won over teammates and fans with his effervescent personality and clutch showings — he’s certainly not Miller’s equal when it comes to athletic gifts.
“I would say Braxton provides maybe a little more excitement,” Linsley said. “Kenny G provides a lot with his game play because everybody is excited to see Kenny do well. He’s a great guy and even better player. When he’s out there, the crowd is going, ‘Kenny G!’
“But with Braxton, he’s got that quickness, that spark no one else in the nation has. You can talk about (Heisman Trophy-winner) Johnny Manziel all you want. There’s no one out there quicker at the quarterback position than Braxton.”
Respect: Meyer on the three-time defending conference champion Badgers: “In my mind, they’re the kings of the Big Ten.”
Two in a row: The Buckeyes will play at 8 p.m. on ABC-TV two games in row. Their game at Northwestern on Oct. 5 also was picked up by the network Monday.
Ohio State (4-0) vs. Wisconsin (3-1), 8 p.m. Saturday, ABC, 1410