Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has a heavy workload — maybe too heavy.
His coaches have a week to figure out how to take it easier on their star signal-caller.
Coach Urban Meyer knows there could be trouble brewing for his 12th-ranked Buckeyes unless they do something soon to limit the number of carries Miller has and the number of hits he takes.
“We have to play better around him to eliminate some of those carries,” said Meyer, who pointed out that several of the runs were a result of blown assignments which led to Miller toting the ball. “My, gosh, is he a good runner. And we all see that. So we just have to be a little smarter.”
Ohio State said that Miller’s 27 carries in Saturday’s 31-16 win over Central Florida appears to be a school record for a quarterback. So far this season, Miller has already carried 44 times in two games for a total of 302 yards.
Running backs coach Stan Drayton said he was worried about how many times Miller was being thrown to the ground.
“That’s something we’re concerned about with for any player,” he said. “How many hits does your running back take during the course of a season? How many does your quarterback take? We have to monitor that because we’re thinking in terms of long-term goals.”
The point is players have a physical limit. Miller, listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, cannot continue to take a pounding without it affecting his play or possibly increasing the chances of his getting hurt.
Wide receiver Corey Brown said 27 carries is a lot for anyone.
“Braxton’s a hard guy to tackle, obviously,” he said. “[To carry] 27 times in a game for anybody, even for a running back, that’s a lot of carries. It will take a toll on your body.”
To make matters worse, heading into Saturday’s game against Pac-12 opponent California, Ohio State will likely be without three scholarship running backs.
Carlos Hyde, the starter at the beginning of last season and in the first two games this year, sustained a sprain to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Saturday. Meyer said it was unlikely that he would be available to play against the Golden Bears.
Jordan Hall, figured as the starter coming out of spring ball, has not had a full-contact practice since he cut a tendon in his right foot when he stepped on some glass while barefoot outside of his apartment in June. He underwent surgery and has been running on the sideline during practice but has not participated in all team drills.
Freshman Warren Ball had surgery on his foot and will be redshirted this season.
That leaves two scholarship running backs on the team — freshman Bri’onte Dunn and sophomore Rod Smith. Dunn, who sidestepped legal problems this summer, gained 29 yards on five carries against UCF. Smith had 10 yards on three attempts.
Meyer was asked if it would take a lot to get Dunn ready to start.
“It’s one thing getting your mind right to go to be a backup or third-string tailback for a game,” he said. “It’s another thing getting your mind right to be the guy that’s going to jog out there with the first offense. There’s no, ‘Just go play.”’
Either player could see action at the start of the game.
“Whoever has the best Tuesday and Wednesday [practices] is going to line up at tailback,” Meyer said.
Drayton didn’t discount the possibility that backup Kenny Guiton could become the starting quarterback and Miller might even see some action as a running back.