Put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;"
~ John Fogerty, Centerfield
I realize that I am mixing sports metaphors here, as "Centerfield" was written about baseball, and this article is about Ohio State football, but please bear with me. No, this article is not being intended to serve as a voice of doom and gloom for this upcoming week's contest against California.
For the first two weeks of the 2013 season, Ohio State has held commanding leads late in the game, and has won convincingly. While this is not surprising to me, what is surprising is how the coaching staff is not using these opportunities to provide the backup players, especially on the offensive side of the ball, some game-time experience.
For example, in game one against Buffalo, Braxton Miller suffered cramps, and was ably replaced by Kenny Guiton. When Miller was able to return into the game, Guiton went back to the sidelines, and Ohio State remained in complete control, defeating Buffalo 40-20.
Late in the contest, with Buffalo clearly defeated, Braxton Miller was in the game. Why not give Kenny Guiton even more playing time?
Versus San Diego State, Ohio State was forced to play Guiton, with Miller suffering a knee injury early in the game. Again, Guiton played well.
Winning the game against San Diego State 42-7, Guiton was in the game, well after the game was decided. Why not use this opportunity to give playing time to Cardale Jones?
I could make the same argument regarding players such as Warren Ball (only carried the ball twice against San Diego State), or Bri'onte Dunn (no carries yet this season). Yes, I understand that Jordan Hall, Dontre Wilson, Rod Smith, and Ezekiel Elliott all carried the ball against San Diego State - why not give players such as Ball or Dunn playing time late in the contest? I even tweeted something along those lines ~
Hope to see more backups - Cardale Jones. Warren Ball. Yes, even Bri'onte Dunn too. No sense in keeping Kenny Guiton in at this point.
— Chip Minnich (@ChipMinnich) September 7, 2013
A case in point - notice how Ohio State's defense has seemingly substituted many defensive backups into the games, and the benefits that this has provided Ohio State's defense...
Really happy for Steve Miller. Great week of practice leads to success in the game. pic.twitter.com/zVQddMGb9x
— Mike Vrabel (@CoachVrabel50) September 8, 2013
My article may seem alarmist or overly pessimistic by Ohio State fans, but please keep in mind the following points ~
1) Even Coach Meyer stated in his press conference on 09/09/2013 that Braxton Miller was a "day to day decision" (see below). Yes, I have complete confidence in Kenny Guiton.
Urban Meyer: Braxton Miller will be a day-to-day decision. (Sprained left knee ligament)
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) September 9, 2013
What happens if Miller cannot go versus Cal, and Guiton is hurt during the game? Now Cardale Jones, or J.T. Barrett, enter into the Cal game, with NO game experience. And that scenario could have been completely avoided, by playing them late versus Buffalo and San Diego State.
2) Yes, I understand that it will be difficult to keep all of the running backs happy. Yes, I know that Dunn has not played because Dunn has not played on special teams. But think about this - running back depth is something to protect, not take for granted. I can certainly recall many seasons when Ohio State seemingly had to scramble to find capable running backs - is 2003 too far back for people to remember?
My point is, players can go down to injury quickly. Considerable depth can be eliminated very easily. Play as many players as possible, to provide experience if needed.