Braxton Miller’s shoulder never fully recovered the way he needed it to to win Ohio State’s quarterback competition. So Miller, wanting to get on the field, help his team win another national title and keep his dream of playing in the NFL alive, switched positions.
Miller is now an H-back, a receiver position that will line up in the backfield and do a bunch of different stuff. And while it was unthinkable as recently as a year ago that the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and two-time top-five Heisman-finishing quarterback would be lining up elsewhere in his final year at Ohio State, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
But make no mistake, the Buckeyes are still going to find an awful lot of ways to get the ball in Miller’s hands.
"He is the best athlete in the country," quarterback Cardale Jones said earlier this month during the team’s media day. "He is dynamic. I want to hurry up and get the ball to him. I'm anxious to see what he can do."
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That opportunity should come right away. Fellow H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, as well as wide receiver Corey Smith, are suspended for the season-opener against Virginia Tech. Sophomore Noah Brown, who with an excellent camp might’ve landed a starting job, broke his leg Wednesday during practice and is out for the 2015 season. Top wideout Michael Thomas has been battling injuries, too. With all those pass-catching options sidelined or hampered for the first game of the year, Miller might play a starring role in his debut at his new position.
But first he has to complete his learning of the position. When Miller first talked about his position switch earlier this summer, he said he’d been working on a transition for a while. But one doesn’t just flip the switch from QB to receiver. It requires work, work that by all accounts Miller is putting in. Dedication is no issue for the former quarterback, and coupled with his athleticism that we already know about — in addition to his passing numbers, he rushed for 3,054 yards and 32 touchdowns in three seasons — he could really make some explosive plays.
"It's been fun to be in the same room as him," Thomas said. "We've always been so close, and it's a dream come true to play with your brother at the same position. Every day he is making progress. The sky is the limit for him at the position."
"It's fun. It feels like when I was growing up and playing a bunch of different positions. I'm just enjoying football. Whatever I do on the field, I want to be the best at it," Miller said. "Catching the ball out there, you're already on second or third level. Make one person miss, and it's off to the races. I'm going to be in the backfield too. It's going to be fun man. Like playing video games."
Head coach Urban Meyer is feeling like a kid again, too, with a new offensive toy to play with. Miller’s past as a quarterback opens up a bevy of trick-play opportunities. We already saw a wide receiver touchdown toss in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama back in January. What could Miller lining up with Jones or J.T. Barrett mean?
“Pretty intriguing,” Meyer said last month during Big Ten Media Days. “For a guy who sits and doodles all day like a child, it’s pretty exciting.
“I’m not letting you see them, either.”
Guess we’ll have to wait.