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Wanted: versatile replacements for suspended football players

Joe Podelco / photo editor

The Ohio State football team held an offense-versus-defense jersey scrimmage on Saturday following its annual kick scrimmage to give coaches another look at which players will start the season in place of the players who were suspended.

The focus is on quarterback and running back, with seniors Terrelle Pryor and Dan Herron missing the first five games for selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits in 2009.

The offense won the jersey scrimmage, 56-45, behind touchdown passes from senior quarterback Joe Bauserman and redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Graham. The highlight of the day came from freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, who spun out of a sack and ran 14 yards up the middle before diving into the end zone for a touchdown.

Each quarterback, including redshirt sophomore Kenny Guiton, got reps with the first-team offense, and each could have the opportunity of starting for the Buckeyes during Pryor’s suspension.

“I think they’re getting it,” senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said. “I think Joe is obviously better, and Kenny. They’ve obviously been in the system longer, but I think Braxton and Taylor are both doing a great job as well.”

Miller, a highly touted recruit from Huber Heights, Ohio, enrolled at OSU early in order to get experience this spring before his freshman season, and has impressed his teammates at practice.

“I think Braxton does a lot of things great, but obviously his mobile ability like Terrelle,” Sweat said. “He’s throwing a lot better than I expected. I think he’s throwing the ball well, and he’s understanding the concepts and he’s doing a good job.”

During the scrimmage, Pryor was on the field helping Miller during every one of his plays, and senior offensive lineman J.B. Shugarts said all the veterans have been helping Miller get used to college football.

“Everyone’s really helping Braxton a lot,” Shugarts said. “He’s really poised out there, especially someone straight out of high school. He’s not missing a beat at all.”

Although Herron will miss the first five games, Shugarts said the Buckeyes should not have trouble getting production out of the running back position.

“We’ve got a stable of backs. We’ve got some horses,” Shugarts said. “We can really go out there and move the ball.”

Herron saw little work during Saturday’s scrimmage, but sophomore Jaamal Berry and redshirt freshman Rod Smith both had impressive days running the ball. Herron, however, said each running back has the chance to have a breakout season.

“To be honest, all of them are doing great,” Herron said. “There’s not just one guy I can really point out because, I mean, they all have been doing an excellent job.”

Junior Jordan Hall and sophomore Carlos Hyde also are in the mix for the Buckeyes at running back this season.

The 6-foot-3 Smith has become one of the favorites to replace Herron during the suspension following impressive practices prior to the Sugar Bowl. Herron said Smith has been working hard and has all the tools to be successful.

“He’s a big guy that can move pretty good. Whenever you can get a big guy moving the way he moves and just being flexible and learning the playbook as well as he can, that’s always a plus,” Herron said.

Shugarts said Pryor is enjoying being a coach for the quarterbacks, and Herron said he will look to help out the running backs.

“Any player, if you truly love the game, you love coaching people, and you love seeing people you coached progress on the field,” Shugarts said. “It just makes you feel better about the whole situation.”

The Buckeyes also will be missing coach Jim Tressel, who was suspended for the first five games of the season for not reporting the NCAA infractions of Pryor, Herron and three other players.

OSU will continue spring practice and will hold its spring game on April 23 at Ohio Stadium.

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