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Meyer says No. 5 Buckeyes are ready without Miller
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A week after the loss of three-year starting quarterback Braxton Miller, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is going through final preparations for the Buckeyes' opener on Saturday against Navy.
He says his team is ready.
"Oh, yeah. If you have good players, a good team (then you're excited)," he said, pausing before joking, "I'll fake it sometimes, if you don't have a good team.
"But I can tell you this: I think we got a good team."
Meyer disclosed that Miller, a two-time Big Ten player of the year, had successful surgery on the torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder on Tuesday. Dr. James Andrews, renowned for his work with athletes, performed the operation.
Normally, this would be a week of celebration for Miller, who was hurt a week ago in practice. He was voted a team captain along with tight end Jeff Heuerman, defensive lineman Michael Bennett and two unrelated players: defensive back Doran Grant and linebacker Curtis Grant.
Instead, Miller will be sidelined until next August.
J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman who has never taken a collegiate snap, will start in his place. He will be backed by redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones, who has thrown a total of two passes in his Ohio State career.
Both may see action, although Barrett has a slight edge.
"It was thrust upon us pretty quickly because in my heart I thought Braxton would be ready to go. I didn't envision this," Meyer said. "I thought, man, this would be a really close battle for the backup spot. J.T. is the starting quarterback, but there's not a big separation."
The Buckeyes (12-2) still have several other spots up for grabs.
Meyer said Billy Price, Joel Hale and Antonio Underwood were fighting for the starting job at left guard, the one open starting cornerback spot will go to either Gareon Conley or Eli Apple and that Jacoby Boren and Alabama transfer Chad Lindsay continue to challenge for the starting center spot. In addition, there are six players in the wide receiver derby but only three will start the game at M&T Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday afternoon.
A lot of the talk after Monday's practice dealt with Barrett and picking up the slack for the loss of Miller.
Wide receiver Evan Spencer believes that many won't be able to notice a substantial difference on Saturday. Barrett's last complete season was as a junior at Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, three years ago.
"We're running the same offense (as last year)," he said. "There's only so many ways to scheme up things. He's very mobile, and he can make all of throws on the field. It's going to be different, but at the same time when you see us out there this week a lot of stuff will look pretty similar."
Meyer said he was enthused about where the Buckeyes are mentally and physically with the start of the season looming.
"I like where we're at, especially after today's practice, and I like how they responded to Braxton's injury," he said. "So I think we're pretty ready."
The Buckeyes lost a shot at the national title last year by falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game before a 40-35 defeat against Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Meyer and his staff blew up the pass defense after it was shredded by the Spartans and the Tigers in those final two losses. Now the Buckeyes will play press coverage with a rotation of cornerbacks in hopes of limiting completions over the top and underneath.
Carlos Hyde was suspended for the first three games of his senior season in 2013 and still piled up 1,527 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Now Ohio State will rely on several backs to fill his sizable cleats: sophomores Ezekiel Elliott, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball, fifth-year senior Rod Smith and freshman Curtis Samuel.
The Midshipmen (9-4) closed last season with four straight wins to gain bowl eligibility and went on to beat Middle Tennessee 24-6 in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is coming off a sophomore season in which Navy's option offense helped him set an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 31, which also tied Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs for the most in the nation.
The only other players with more rushing TDs in a season are Barry Sanders (37) with Oklahoma State and Wisconsin's Montee Ball (33).
Ohio State, beginning the program's 125th season, has won all four meetings with Navy -- most recently opening the 2009 season with a 31-27 victory.