It was a simple option pitch play.
Braxton Miller took the snap and delivered the ball to running back Rod Smith. Miller, as is the case for an Ohio State quarterback in spring practice, was wearing a black jersey to signify that he is off-limits for tackling. But defensive end Noah Spence hit Miller — hard.
Miller was slow to get up, and when he did, he was angry. He went to the defensive sideline and had words with one or more players, presumably Spence, though it was impossible to tell from the view the media had. Receiver Corey Brown had to restrain Miller and pull him away.
Miller later returned to practice. There’s no indication that he was anything but momentarily shaken.
Miller wasn’t available to the media after practice. Coach Urban Meyer downplayed what happened, saying that Miller was fine.
“He got hit the other day in practice and has a sore rib, and got hit again,” Meyer said.
He said he would have been upset about the hit only “if it was intentful.”
As for Miller’s reaction, Meyer said he didn’t see all of it, but he didn’t seem too disturbed.
“I like quarterbacks who want to go get into a street fight and get after it,” Meyer said. “That’s probably not the time to go do it, but he’s a competitor. Braxton is a competitor. That’s better than the opposite, just lay on the ground and curl up (and say), ‘Why did he hit me?’ ”
The incident speaks to the heightened competitiveness that’s a given in the Buckeyes program, even in spring practice. Yesterday was another Winner/Loser day. The offense won on a short touchdown pass from Kenny Guiton to tight end Nick Vannett. As offensive players looked on with satisfaction, the defense and special teams ran sprints. That included the defensive coaches. Not surprisingly, 51-year-old cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs kept up with some of the players.
Meyer might have been encouraged that the offense won yesterday’s competition. At Saturday’s scrimmage, the defense won.
“It’s kind of an awful scrimmage if the offense can’t gain 5 yards, and we’ve had scrimmages like that,” Meyer said. “So it was good to see some competition. I’m not sure we have any answers yet.”
But he does not have the same level of concern about finding playmakers that he had this time a year ago.
“I think Philly Brown has had a great spring,” Meyer said. “Devin (Smith) is still a little up and down, but he’s doing pretty good. We have two good tight ends. Vannett and (Jeff) Heuerman are doing a really good job.
“We’re a lot better than we were last year at this time. I couldn’t tell you, first of all, probably who they were (12 months ago), because we were not very good.”
Meyer said a bright spot in Saturday’s practice was the play of third-string quarterback Cardale Jones.
“I think Cardale really showed he could play quarterback at Ohio State,” Meyer said. “Up to this point, you had no idea other than he looks good and throws the ball nicely once in a while. But he showed the energy you want in a quarterback.”
On defense, the Buckeyes are experimenting with more blitzes. Linebacker-turned-defensive end Jamal Marcus was a force, decking running back Bri’onte Dunn on one play and then getting to Miller on the next. But his “sack” was of the two-hand-touch variety, unlike the one that came later.