When Ohio State’s slick quarterback returns to work today, his acclaimed coach will begin preparing him for a rambunctious Saturday evening.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Monday that tests on sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, who was injured against Purdue on Saturday, returned negative. Miller was taken to the hospital after being slammed to the turf in the third quarter of last weekend’s 29-22 overtime victory over the Boilermakers.
How confident is Meyer in Miller’s ability to play Saturday? Ohio State listed Miller as the starter on its weekly depth chart.
Meyer said Miller is very sore, with his neck experiencing significant pain. Doctors released Miller from a campus hospital last Saturday night.
“He got like a whiplash,” Meyer said in his weekly news conference. “I had a long talk with him about it. He’s just rattled. And once he settled down, he seemed to be fine. He made the comment to me that he’s never really been hurt. It kind of rattled him, like it would rattle most athletes.”
Junior Kenny Guiton replaced Miller and led Ohio State to a late game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion.
Miller has thrown for 1,384 yards while adding 959 on the ground. Miller’s play has helped Ohio State start 8-0 and reach No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25.
“He’s our best player,” Meyer said.
Keeping Miller safe might be one of Ohio State’s biggest challenges this weekend. Penn State’s defensive front features multiple hard-hitting veterans, including linebackers Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti and Glenn Carson and defensive tackle Jordan Hill.
Meyer said he’s “very concerned” about Miller lasting the entire season. Miller endured a thunderous late hit by Purdue star defensive tackle Kawann Short at the end of last weekend’s first half and two violent shots against Michigan State.
Despite the hits, Meyer isn’t requesting Miller to change his free-wheeling ways.
“I think you let him be and coach him,” Meyer said. “If you have the opportunity to step out of bounds after a big play, step out of bounds. To be a classic drop back passer in his career now, I’m not sure how efficient we would be. I think more guys need to step up and take the heat off him.”
Penn State’s defense isn’t the only element that might bother Miller. Penn State officials are expecting a crowd of more than 100,000 fans, and a 5:30 p.m. should amplify the noise level inside Beaver Stadium.
Meyer, who won two BCS titles at Florida, said his assistant coaches have warned him about the atmosphere.
“I’ve never been to a game there,” Meyer said, “but I understand from our coaches that it’s the loudest place to play in the Big Ten.”
The Buckeyes will try to simulate the noise in their next three practices. Ohio State uses a no-huddle offense, which Meyer said should aid offensive calls.
“The no-huddle kind of helps you,” Meyer said. “It’s not quite an issue. The things that are issues are emotions and shifts and things like that where you can hear. We’ll certainly spend a lot of time on that.”
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter @cdtguy.