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Urban Meyer And The Two-Quarterback System

"Can you catch?"
"Can you catch?"

When news broke on Monday that Urban Meyer would be using Braxton Miller and Ken Guiton in tandem on the field, possibly even at the same time, it was quite surprising to many Ohio State observers. According to Jonathan Smith on 97.1 The Fan, it was the first that even Miller and Guiton had even heard of the plan. Meyer was obviously successful in 2006 using a two-quarterback system with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow, and that system did not seem to cause unnecessary drama or an alpha-dog controversy.

But with Miller and Guiton, it seems like Meyer has two similar athletes at the position, as opposed to Leak, who was generally a pocket passer, and Tebow, one of the best runners from the quarterback position in college football history. Urban likes Miller's physical tools and abilities, but he also seems to be a big fan of the intangible qualities Guiton has showed this off-season. Meyer has been about as pleased as he gets with both of his quarterbacks, and it appears he wants to use them both.

So we had to ask: How the heck is this going to work?

First of all, Miller was the clear-cut number one starting quarterback at the end of spring practice, and has been pretty much since the end of the first third of last season. With Meyer's quote, does that mean Guiton will be receiving snaps if Miller has a bad game? Probably not. Meyer's track record speaks for itself and while Tebow was the new freshman star in 2006, Chris Leak was the clear starter. Leak was taken out when the playcalling called for it. Meyer was accustomed to having a mobile quarterback, but was willing to work with Leak passing and running a little bit as well. Now, with a potentially transcendent talent like Braxton Miller, I still don't think we'll see Guiton under center without Braxton Miller on the field unless Miller's hurt.

Second, how is this going to function schematically? Guiton and Miller are both similar styles of quarterback, except that Miller is superior in pretty much every physical aspect of the game. It looks as though Guiton will mainly be used in situations where either he or Miller will line up out wide. I would venture to say that Guiton will not be the one lining up under center. I would expect Guiton to be brought in motion toward the quarterback or to line up as a slot receiver in preparation to catch something behind the line for potentially an even more unexpected look.

These aren't revolutionary ideas, but they do force the defense to account for the presence of two quarterbacks who are equally capable of throwing and running the ball. Even if Guiton or Miller are simply used as decoys, it adds an extra dimension to the offense that opposing defenses must use a player to cover. This helps free up a player such as Jake Stoneburner from double coverage, and it will also free up some running room for the backs since one player must leave the box. If defenses play zone coverage, it frees up screen passes and will spread the field, making it easier to gash the defense with the veer-like running game while they are bailing out expecting a pass.

When Meyer and Tom Herman took over the offense this year, they probably took stock of the offensive players they had and looked for some easy ideas to make the team a little more dynamic on that side of the ball. Putting Guiton on the field, even as a decoy, is relatively low-hanging fruit for today's college spread offenses, but the past offensive coaching regime even had trouble coming up with throwing slant patterns to make the offense more effective, let alone more complicated or advanced ideas. This is just the sort of thing that Meyer and Herman will have to continue doing in order to improve the team's offense from what it was during the Tressel/Bollman/Siciliano era. Figuring out a way to actually use Ken Guiton in the offense instead of limiting him to mop-up duty against MAC schools is just the tip of the iceberg.

Do you think this plan is a good idea? Feel free to share some of your own ideas for making the offense more dynamic in the comments.