Big Ten

Big Ten preview: How big an impact will Braxton Miller make at H-back?

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Big Ten preview: How big an impact will Braxton Miller make at H-back?

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."

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Can anyone stop the Buckeyes on road to repeat?]

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."

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: No wrong answer for Buckeyes between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones]

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.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.