Position Battles Take Center Stage Saturday

Luke Fickell has watched his Buckeyes practice for the past two weeks. On Saturday, he'll finally get a chance to see them play. That's why the jersey scrimmage is typically important for the Buckeye position battles.

Luke Fickell has spent the past two weeks watching his Ohio State football team prepare for its Sept. 3 season opener against Akron — now looming only two quick weeks away.

Saturday he'll finally get the chance to see his team play.

Ohio State will partake in the annual fall jersey scrimmage in Ohio Stadium, allowing the offense and defense to engage in a lengthy full-contact scrimmage formatted much like a game.

"It's the time for the coaches to back off like they are in a game and time for (the players) to perform," said Fickell, who'll get a chance to evaluate his team on a new levsel following the game-like simulation.

"We don't see us acting kind of like we do at practice sometimes. We try to say being in the stadium in the pressure, not us hollering at you and screaming at you and making sure you get lined up right and doing what you're supposed to do. It's your time to shine and play."

Because the jersey scrimmage provides a high-intense environment that simulates a game atmosphere better than any other practice Ohio State will endure during the fall, it's typically viewed as the most important day for players to prove their worth to the coaching staff.

With the quarterbacks currently engaged in perhaps the most followed position battle at Ohio State in the past decade, the onus to have a big day Saturday will likely be bigger than it has been in the practices leading into the weekend.

For freshman Braxton Miller, it will give him a chance to put on display perhaps his most important asset — his elusiveness in the pocket and ability to get away from live defenders and create plays with his legs.

That skill isn't easily gauged wearing the black no contact jersey, as it is sometimes unclear whether or not he would have been able to escape pressuring defenders to keep a play alive.

Fickell said Miller and the other quarterbacks will still likely be wearing black jerseys Saturday, but the environment during the scrimmage will give them a chance to complete plays that may have otherwise been ended in practice.

"We'll have some different situations," Fickell said. "We're not sure just exactly what we're going to do yet, but they haven't had a lot of black jerseys on, but we've been smart with them. They are what we call active, but they might be live all of the time."

Miller and senior Joe Bauserman have seemingly separated themselves from Kenneth Guiton and Taylor Graham in the battle. Both Bauserman and Miller have been receiving roughly 80 percent of the total snaps.

But the potential for Guiton or Graham to play back into contention is still there with a big performance in the jersey scrimmage, as Fickell wouldn't downplay the importance of all four quarterbacks getting ample reps.

"Every day is a critical moment for those guys, just showing their poise and showing their leadership and showing their competitive nature," the coach said of the quarterbacks.

"It isn't every day that you're completely live, so I think that's what the neat thing about everybody. You don't go as much live as you used to probably. In a jersey scrimmage is when you'll go live. It's time for everybody."

Though Fickell is quite aware that the Buckeyes success is likely hinging on who wins the quarterback battle, there are too many positions with questions marks to be solely focused on the ones taking the snaps.

On both sides of the ball there are at least six total position battles still underway. Offensively the Buckeyes are still waiting for wide receivers and running backs to emerge as the go-to playmakers.

Defensively Ohio State returns only one starter in the defensive backfield from a year ago in Orhian Johnson, but positions still up for grabs can be found on all levels of the defense.

"We'd like to say all of them are," Fickell responded when asked what positions are up for grabs, "but there's a lot."

The jersey scrimmage will likely go a long way in determining what the Buckeyes look like in the season opener against the Zips.

"We're trying to identify the top 22 players this week," Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock said. "This week is a heavy emphasis on a lot of reps. We've got to identify who we have to get ready to play the first game."

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