One of the three quarterbacks set to compete for the Ohio State starting quarterback job has dropped out of that competition.
Braxton Miller is switching positions from quarterback to wide receiver, according to a story posted by Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel on Thursday night. It turns the offseason's most anticipated position battle into a two-man fight between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.
Miller told Thamel that his ongoing recovery from the shoulder injury that knocked him out of the 2014 season will prevent him from being completely healthy as a quarterback and that he'll start the 2015 campaign as an H-back, as well as return punts.
“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller told Thamel. “It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”
Miller told Thamel that he's been preparing as a wideout for months but asked head coach Urban Meyer not to tell anyone and that only five of his teammates knew about the switch.
Miller was the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as a quarterback during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, when he led the Buckeyes to a 24-2 record in Meyer's first two seasons as head coach in Columbus. Miller threw for a combined 4,133 yards and 39 touchdowns and rushed for an additional 2,339 yards and 25 touchdowns in those two seasons, twice finishing in the top 10 in voting for the Heisman Trophy. He injured his throwing shoulder in Ohio State's loss to Clemson in the 2014 Orange Bowl, requiring offseason surgery. He was ready to begin last season until he injured the same shoulder just days before the first game.
Barrett took over for Miller, leading the Buckeyes to an 11-1 regular-season record and breaking all sorts of program and conference records along the way, finishing fifth in Heisman voting. But Barrett suffered an ankle injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan, yielding to Jones, who was outstanding in leading the Buckeyes to three postseason wins en route to the program's eighth national championship.
Transfer speculation surrounded Miller all season long, and it wasn't until fairly recently that he officially declared his intentions of remaining a Buckeye. But he won't be participating in the competition for the starting quarterback job after making known his intention to switch positions Thursday.
Ohio State frequently uses the H-back position in its offense, with Jalin Marshall having plenty of success from that spot on the field last season. It could mean that Miller will remain an integral part of the Buckeyes' offensive plans, even though he's not under center. Miller could also be used as a trick-play quarterback given his skills. Meyer showed he's not shy about doing something like that, as a receiver's pass went for a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
The move will obviously alter Miller's future, as many believed he could be a potential NFL Draft pick as a quarterback, not a crazy thought after two incredibly successful seasons at that position. He'll have to prove himself as an all-around athlete — something that doesn't figure to be too difficult considering the athleticism he showed in 2012 and 2013 — to make a splash as an NFL pass-catcher.