Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, left, throws a pass over lineman Chris Carter during their spring NCAA college football game today in Columbus.
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COLUMBUS -- It was unclear who more anxiously awaited the introduction of a new era: the 81,122 Ohio State fans who defied the cold and rain to attend Saturday's spring game or Urban Meyer.
The first-year Buckeyes coach spared no time in showcasing the potential of the no-huddle spread offense he hopes will upend the Big Ten.
After the first play from scrimmage, Meyer stood 10 yards behind the line waving his arm like a third-base coach -- and his charges obliged.
Quarterback Braxton Miller needed only two minutes, 13 seconds to lead the Scarlet team on an eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive. The clock did not stop, and neither did OSU. Miller whipped the ball around the field, completing 4-of-4 passes, including a 25-yard fade to Chris Fields.
It was Ohio State football like fans had never seen.
"And we didn't even get that fast today," backup quarterback Kenny Guiton said, grinning.
Perhaps not much could be gleaned from the Scarlet team's 20-14 victory over the Gray -- a practice dressed up with the pomp of a fall Saturday.
Miller was not permitted to run. Several starters were limited to a quarter or less, including All-Big Ten senior defensive lineman John Simon and St. John's left tackle Jack Mewhort. And there was little rhyme or reason to the structure. At one point in the first half, Meyer lined up Drew Basil and the field goal unit for seven consecutive kicks from 41 to 58 yards.
But Miller and the offense showed fans that life in the Shoe will be vastly different this season.
For one, the Buckeyes, whose passing game ranked 115th nationally last season, will no longer fear the forward pass.
A year ago, Miller attempted 157 passes, including four in a victory over Illinois, while OSU's leading receiver had 14 catches. Saturday, the sophomore completed 24-of-31 passes, including 12 to early enrollee freshman Michael Thomas. He led the Buckeyes on back-to-back scoring drives to open the game before tossing his lone interception on the Scarlet team's third possession.
"He can pass the ball," Meyer said. "Here's the way you evaluate a quarterback. Release, I give him an A. Arm strength, I'll say a B, but I'm very critical. And accuracy, a B or a C, we've got to get him a little more accurate. But he's getting better. He had a very good spring."
Surrounded by a crowd of nearly three dozen reporters, the soft-spoken Miller said, "I felt pretty good today, but we didn't show too much."
Not showing too much was what Meyer intended, though it complicated Miller's afternoon. Miller, who rushed for 715 yards and seven touchdowns last season, is at his best when the defense must respect his feet. Former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor often appeared lost when spring games rendered him a pocket quarterback.
Guiton also aired it out, completing 16-of-24 passes for 185 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The Scarlet and Gray tailbacks combined for only 19 rushes.
"We're going to be a very balanced team. That was very imbalanced," Meyer said. "However, that was done for a reason. You're taking one of the worst passing teams in America a year ago, and we've got to find out if we can do that."
The verdict remains unclear. Meyer is still in search of playmakers, though Thomas and Brown impressed Saturday. Brown added seven catches for 90 yards to lead the Gray team.
"Unfortunately," Meyer said, "we still don't know, 'Can we throw the ball?' "
What does it take to please Meyer?
"I have no clue," Miller said. "I'm just going to keep working."
He will have plenty of time.
"Now we have to go out and have the greatest offseason in the history of college football," Meyer said. "That starts Monday."
Contact David Briggs at email@example.com, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.
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