EXCLUSIVE: In his Ohio State debut against Akron two weeks ago, freshman Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller passed for 132 yards and a touchdown in OSU’s 42-0 shutout of the Zips.
After the game, Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell was asked if he planned to continue both playing Miller and fellow quarterback Joe Bauserman, who started against the Zips.
We know we need them both, and I think that’s the most important thing. Those guys work great together. They’re not going to be distracted by the things that are outside and all the outside influences. We know we’re going to need them both. We’re just going to give them all the ability to put them in situations and see how they handle it, and still continue to let them compete. They know we have confidence in them, but they’re willing to work together and we’ll see how it grows.
Seven days later against Toledo at Ohio Stadium, Miller failed to play a down. After the game, Fickell was asked why the highly-touted quarterback remained on the sideline - and if an injury was the reason:
We don’t have any regrets. I don’t think we are going to look back and regret it. Obviously you look back every week, and try to find ways that you can get better, but Braxton was dinged up a little bit, practiced more so on Thursday and a little bit on Wednesday, but you know, we had a plan going in that maybe it didn’t quite happen exactly how you do.
You’ve kind of got to adjust on the run. And you know, we are not going to look back on it. We know that most importantly, we’ll make sure that those guys mind are right and they understand the situation we are in. We communicated with them so that there’s no guesswork involved and to me the most important thing is that they can stay focused and move forward and not dwell upon the past.
Moments later at the presser, Fickell was asked, “Just to clarify on Braxton, his health did play a role in the decision on Saturday?”
I didn’t say that. I said that he was dinged up a little bit early in the week and we had a plan going in, maybe we adjusted the plan a little bit, but most important thing is that, hey, we’re all moving forward with it. We understand it, those guys understand it. You have a plan going into the game and as long as you communicate with them, we’ll make sure we all handle things the right way and most importantly we have to do what’s best for the team.
Benching Miller wasn’t the only adjustment Fickell made when it came to playing time before the game in question.
Tuesday before the Toledo game, Fickell indicated Ohio State players Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown would likely be available to play after serving a one game suspension for taking envelopes containing cash at a Cleveland charity event last February. But the Friday before the game at Ohio Stadium against the Rockets, the NCAA released a statement blocking the reinstatement of the trio.
A day later - to the surprise of many - Miller took the same number of snaps against game as Hall, Howard and Brown did: zero.
In its original report to the NCAA detailing the violations committed by the aforementioned trio, the NCAA noted that two additional “current student-athletes” attended the same charity event where Hall, Brown and Howard received $200 each in envelopes utltimately provided by longtime Ohio State booster Bobby DiGeromino.
On [redacted], 2011, five current football student-athletes and two former student-athletes attended a charitable event in Cleveland. Three of the current student-athletes received impermissible monies at the charitable event - a violation of NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.6. Further, a violation of NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.(a) occured since the student-athletes did not receive prior written approval for attending the event this year.
Ohio State also noted in its original, Sept. 1, 2011, report to the NCAA of the two “current student-athletes”:
.. they did observe [redacted] carrying several envelopes during the event.
The two “current student-athletes” referred to by Ohio State in its report to the NCAA - with the names redacted by the the school in its release of the report to the media - are Braxton Miller and current Buckeye football player Nathan Williams.
Williams also sat out of the Toledo game and will miss the Miami game due to a knee injury.
Though I cannot confirm Fickell didn’t play Miller against Toledo because the QB was named in the NCAA report - particularly after the NCAA’s last-second Toledo game blockade of Hall, Howard and Brown - you can’t help but wonder if it was a contributing factor.