Since Alex Boone vacated the spot after the 2008 season, Mike Adams and Andy Miller began battling to take over the position. A full season later, both remained locked in a struggle to earn the spot. But now, as fall camp comes to an end and the Buckeyes prepare to open the regular season, one of the combatants might have eliminated himself from consideration due to injury.
Miller, entering his senior season, missed part of the team's Aug. 21 jersey scrimmage and was on the bench with an ice bag on his left elbow. After the scrimmage, he told reporters he was suffering from inflammation in the joint but that he was hoping he could grit it out as the season begins.
"I think most of it is just from overuse in camp," he said. "It's an issue that I've had in my elbow for a little while. I'm not exactly sure what's going on but it's something where I just think it's a little inflamed because of how much we've been hitting. Once the season starts rolling and we're not practicing how many times a week, things should quiet down."
As a junior, Miller won the starting job when Adams was suspended for the first two games of the season. He started the first three games of the season before Adams started the next four.
Adams' ascension to the job was aided by the fact that Miller came down with both the flu and a virus. Miller said he lost 25-30 pounds because as he was recovering from the flu that had spread through the team, he came down with another virus that further set him back.
In all, Miller lost three games as well as his spot on the line. Adams went down with an injury in week seven and missed the final five games of the year, seeing action for one minute in the Rose Bowl. Senior Jim Cordle wound up holding down the left tackle spot for the final six games of the season with Miller occasionally spelling him.
In practices open to the media this fall, the 6-6, 288-pound Miller appeared to have been passed by Adams. Although the two rotated through the first unit, the junior was getting more reps with the starters and looked to be settling into the position.
Following the jersey scrimmage, head coach Jim Tressel said Miller's injury has hurt his standing.
"I've been pleased with both of those guys," he said. "I think they're both coming along. We're going to need them both. We're fortunate that we have a little competition going on there. We just need to get Andrew a little healthier and he's going to help us a bunch this year."
The question is in what capacity. A converted tight end, Miller has also proven his wares as a backup at left guard. When junior right tackle J.B. Shugarts missed a practice due to injury, Adams slid to his spot and Miller assumed the left tackle position.
Adams entered the program with more hype than Miller. A five-star prospect from nearby Dublin (Ohio) Coffman, Adams was pegged as a potential starter from day one. By comparison, Miller was a three-star prospect.
The senior said he does not feel that prep rankings and fanfare will have any impact on the situation.
"Players don't really get into that too much," he said. "Mike had a real successful high school career and I think he's going to have a successful collegiate career. As far as that stuff goes, we practice and we're rotating and just doing our thing."
With camp ending today, Miller said he is hoping his elbow will respond to a little less hitting.
"It becomes a thing of me losing the strength in my arm so when that happens it's obviously bad for me and it's bad for the team," he said. "Really, it's something that once we start easing off a little bit and not having two practices a day things should be OK."
Although Adams looks like the starter, it seems likely that both will play at least in the early going.
"I'm not sure exactly how that will play out," Miller said. "Judging by how things have gone in the past, I think the idea is that if guys are close enough in talent level we'll rotate guys around for the simple fact that if two guys can play the position equally well, why not have a fresh guy?"