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September 11, 2013

It's all part of the plan

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- One tends to be soft-spoken and one is usually a bit louder.

One is practically a household name and one is the son of a Texas high school football coach.

One is a potential Heisman candidate and one is who Ohio State coach Urban Meyer playfully calls "the old right hander" or just simply "coach."

One is Braxton Miller, his unquestionable starter at quarterback.

One is Kenny Guiton, his more-than-serviceable backup.

Both, though, have shown they can lead the Buckeyes.

While that seems to be done at varying levels of skill and expertise, it breathes life into the notion that Meyer's offense might be carefully built around one player (looking at you Braxton) without being utterly dependent on the player himself.

Perhaps the role, and not necessarily the person playing it, is what matters -- especially for team that will likely rely so heavily on the play of its field general.

Part of that deals with the pair of quarterbacks' similar skill set.

While Miller appears to be more polished as a passer and more gifted as a runner, it's not to say that Guiton -- who was a three-sport athlete at Eisenhower High School in Texas -- lacks the appropriate athletic ability to use the keys and drive Ohio State's shiny car.

It is to say that Miller, who broke the school record for total offense (3,310 yards) during the team's undefeated 2012 campaign, seems better equipped to take the wheel.

Guiton, though, seems to be a relief -- an answer -- to perhaps Ohio State's most-feared nightmare: What if Miller get hurts?

For a team and fan base with its sights set on a national championship, it's probably a concern, at least conceptually, worth fretting over.

After Buckeyes' 42-7 rout of San Diego State, it may be less of a legitimate worry.

A 35-point win against an overmatched opponent is always nice. But when it's orchestrated by your backup quarterback, boy, that might be worth talking about.

Nor was that feat solely accomplished by Guiton's output 239 total yards and two touchdowns Saturday.

Some of it deals with reading the field the way that a Meyer-coached quarterback is taught to. Miller can do it too. And, arguably, that's harder than hitting an open receiver over the middle or taking off and running during a broken play.

"Kenny did a very admirable job in all areas, distributing the ball, making the right checks," Meyer said during his weekly press conference Monday.

"A lot of what you saw was him controlling the game as far as making checks."

It's symptomatic of an offense that doesn't come to a screeching halt when its most-dynamic player -- its epicenter -- can't play.

"When Kenny goes into the game, there's an extreme amount of confidence by the coaching staff and the players in his ability to execute the plan," said Ohio State co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

"So at that point in time, playing against San Diego State, the key was just stick with the game plan, stick with what he's practiced and know that if we need to make adjustments as we progress, he's a smart player and he understands and can make adjustments.

"But really, we didn't plan on changing anything."

Not even the plays specifically tailored for Miller.

"You even saw, I mean, Kenny had that long run. I mean, that was a play that obviously had been designed for Braxton and we still called it with Kenny and he broke it and scored. So we didn't really change much in that regard," Warinner said.

"There's a lot of confidence. You don't feel like all of a sudden half of the game plan page is eliminated because your second team quarterback goes in. We feel like that he's still very capable of executing just about everything on there. And obviously nobody is the same. We are not trying to say they are the same guy."

That's true: Kenny Guiton isn't Braxton Miller.

But, then again, he doesn't have to be.



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