Rather than keep the Ohio State fan base on edge until Saturday, head coach Luke Fickell confirmed a change will take place at quarterback when the Buckeyes take on Colorado.
Freshman Braxton Miller will replace senior Joe Bauserman as the starter, although Fickell did not rule out Bauserman seeing action against the 1-2 Buffaloes.
“It's giving (Miller) a shot,” Fickell said. “We still know we need both of them.”
Bauserman and Miller emerged as the top two from a four-man race that also included Kenny Guiton and Taylor Graham during preseason camp, and Fickell confirmed the reason they were listed as co-starters on the team’s official depth chart each of the first three weeks of the season was because the staff considered elevating Miller earlier.
“We’ve been talking about it,” Fickell said. “Whether there was one specific time I woke up at 3 in the morning and called Coach (Jim) Bollman and said, ‘What do you think?’, no. It’s been a thought process. We wanted to put them out there and make sure they competed.”
Bauserman began the season against Akron with a strong 12-for-16 passing day that included 163 yards and three touchdowns, but he steadily regressed the past two games against Toledo and Miami (Fla.)
The senior completed only 16 of 30 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown against the Rockets before bottoming out with a 2-for-14, 13-yard showing against the Hurricanes.
Miller was 8 for 12 for 130 yards and a touchdown in his debut against the Zips, sat out the Toledo game due to a combination of an injury and the tighter-than-expect game situation, then looked jittery while going 2 for 4 for 22 yards with an interception at Miami.
Asked what caused the staff to conclude Miller is ready to take the reins, Fickell replied,
“I don't know that you ever (know). He's got a lot of ability and we're going to give him some opportunities to play with his ability. It's what we think right now the team needs.
“There are some things Joe can still do and we need him to do, so we're not focused on just one guy.”
He acknowledged going with a freshman starting at any position is not easy.
“We’ve got confidence in him, and that’s the most important thing,” Fickell said. “We’ve got confidence in the guys around him. There are a lot of things you could sit around and worry about, but that’s why we brought those guys here at quarterback or a different position.”
In other personnel news, Fickell said wide receiver Philly Brown is unlikely to play because of an ankle injury suffered two weeks ago but starting linebacker Andrew Sweat is fine. Defensive end Nathan Williams is also expected to miss the contest as he continues to recover from knee surgery performed Sept. 14.
The coach said sophomore safety Christian Bryant could enter the starting lineup as well depending on what personnel grouping the Buckeyes go with. He did not specify who Bryant might replace.
After a disappointing 24-6 setback at Miami that knocked his team out of the national top 25, Fickell and his staff are focused on seeing improvement from the Buckeyes this weekend when Colorado invades Ohio Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
“We want to see us get better, whether it’s Braxton Miller, Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde, Verlon Reed, any guy on defense,” Fickell said. “We want to see us compete, which I know we will, but I want to see us get better. We understand we have to get a lot better in fundamentals, tackling on defense, playing square - all the things we want to do.”
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