Big Ten

Ohio State thinks Braxton Miller can be impact player at WR

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Ohio State thinks Braxton Miller can be impact player at WR

Remember when Braxton Miller caused a Twitter firestorm by favoriting a tweet predicting Oregon to beat his Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff title game?

It's been over half a year since Miller was as good as gone from the championship-winning Buckeyes. Baton Rouge, Eugene, Tallahassee or Tuscaloosa were among his rumored destinations with Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett crowding Ohio State's quarterback depth chart. But the guy who's thrown for 5,292 yards and 52 touchdowns is still in Columbus, readying himself for a new challenge: Playing wide receiver.

[MORE: Ohio State suspends Joey Bosa, three others for season opener]

During Thursday's edition of Big Ten Media Days, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer initially said Miller's comments to Sports Illustrated about his move away from quarterback were "premature," but then proceeded to all but confirm the fifth-year senior's switch to playing wide receiver.

"(Miller and his family) said, what is the plan B? And after he addressed it, then we dove right into it," Meyer said. "And here's the plan B. So we've been working with him for a good month, however, without a ball. It's all been footwork because you can condition position-specific and that's what he's been doing.

"(The) feedback I'm getting from guys like J.T. and Cardale is that he's very athletic obviously and he can catch the ball. I've not seen him do that. I'm anxious to see him do that."

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During summer workouts, coaches cannot work with players using a football. There's no live contact, too. So while Meyer is encouraged by the work Miller's put in since coming to him and the coaching staff a month and a half ago with the idea to move to receiver, there are still plenty of questions to be answered when preseason camp begins in early August. The key, Meyer said, is how Miller adapts to running routes with a physical defensive back jamming him at the line of scrimmage.

But what helped convince Meyer his former quarterback is on the right track is a greater dedication to the Buckeyes' strength and conditioning program.

"The one thing I was concerned about Braxton was his leadership in the weight room," Meyer said. "He wasn't the ultimate grinder. He's now moved in the top five, six workers on our team. And that's a credit to (him.) He's a serious dude right now. And that's fun to coach those guys."

The impetus behind Miller's position change is twofold: First, he's coming off his second shoulder surgery and wasn't sure how well he could throw, especially in relation to the rocket-armed Jones and the dynamic Barrett. Second, even when healthy he didn't profile as an NFL quarterback, so he'll have a year of playing receiver and potentially serving as a special teams returner to show pro scouts he's worthy of a well-paying roster spot and in 2016.

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Miller, who was not among the players Ohio State brought to Chicago for Media Days, gained some added admiration from his teammates for deciding to give up playing quarterback for his final year of college ball.

"You have to have a lot of respect for the guy," offensive lineman Taylor Decker said. "He’s going into his fifth year, he’s always been a quarterback, won Big Ten player of the year twice and he’s moving from the position that he had done all that at. He’s kind of humbling himself, and he’s going to do the best for the team. It’s awesome to see a guy that’s had such a successful career and such a big name who’s been a Heisman contender to be able to say, I’m going to lower myself and I’m going to do what’s best for the team. That makes him a good role model for incoming guys."

Meyer's track record makes him an excellent coach for Miller to make the quarterback-to-receiver switch under.

The fourth-year Buckeyes boss coached wide receivers for Ohio State in 1987, Illinois State in 1989, Colorado State from 1990-1995 and Notre Dame from 1996-2000 before becoming a head coach in 2001 at Bowling Green. He's developed plenty of players at that position during his coaching career, and fielded a few questions about Percy Harvin and how Miller compares to his dynamic receiver pupil at Florida.

[MORE: Big Ten writers pick Buckeyes over Badgers for conference title]

Meyer wouldn't make a direct comparison between Harvin and Miller, but did say the guy he's currently coaching is among the most gifted players he's had and could very well pick up his new position quickly. And there's a feeling Miller's move could be a big part of Ohio State's title defense this fall.

"For the average guy, I'd say would be very uncommon to be (successful) at least right out the gate. He's not common, though," Meyer said. "He's one of the best athletes I've ever coached. He's got an incredible first step. Above all else, you say it's time to win or lose time, and he's not going to lose."

Added Meyer: "My expectation is he's an impact player."

Just like he was as a quarterback.

 

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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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.