Braxton Miller Injury: How Much Running Is Too Much for a Quarterback?

Adam Jacobi@Adam_JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterOctober 22, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 20: Devin Smith #15 and Jake Stoneburner #11, check on Braxton Miller #5, all of the Ohio State Buckeyes, after Miller was injured while running the ball during the fourth quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers on October 20, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Miller did not return to the game.(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Braxton Miller is a tough son of a gun. He's not expected to miss a start after a frightening collision with the turf left him visibly woozy and sent him to the hospital near the end of the third quarter in Saturday's 29-22 win over Purdue.

Miller's head, neck and shoulder tests all checked out at the hospital and he was released symptom-free that afternoon, so he's good to go. But we're starting to see something of a trend here with Ohio State.

Now, the thing with Braxton Miller is he's not getting used like Tim Tebow. Not many of his rushes are designed keepers between the tackles. Those "tough yards" are the domain of tailbacks like Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith—and even Zach Boren before he was moved to linebacker.

Miller has some rushes like that, but by and large he's more of an "in space" rusher in Urban Meyer's scheme—and he does a pretty good job of avoiding big collisions to boot.

However, Miller's athleticism—which by the end of his big runs is usually manifesting itself in freakish top-end speed—often seems to betray him. Take a look at these examples.

Here (at 1:48 in the video), from his freshman season, Miller cuts too quickly and his ankle rolls as a result. He would not return to the game, and he had 51 yards of total offense the next week against Illinois as the ankle recovered.

Here (at 0:48 in the video), the momentum of Miller's rush causes him to plant awkwardly as he stumbles, locking his knee as he falls forward. Somehow, Miller's knee stayed intact; this type of play is a great way to shred a tendon or ligament.

Here, we see Braxton Miller rip off a big run against Nebraska, but thanks to his outrageous speed, he comes down especially hard on his hip. Miller needed some time off the field, but he would return shortly thereafter. 

Then there are the inflicted injuries, though those are less about defenders getting a big hit and more about borderline play. 

Here, Miller is sent flying into a nearby equipment cart on a late hit that was flagged. Miller rejoined the team on the next series.

And then, of course, there's Miller's collision with the turf last Saturday.

None of these plays are easily replicable injuries; individually, they look more like flukes than anything. Together, though, they present a pattern of Braxton Miller being pushed to the limit by his workload.

This is the liability of Urban Meyer's play-calling, even as Kenny Guiton played mistake-free ball in leading Ohio State back from the brink of its first loss last week. Even with big back Carlos Hyde healthy, Miller led the team in rushes in two of the last four games—and he was leading when he was taken out of Saturday's game against Purdue (Hyde ended up with 19 carries to Miller's 12).

Obviously, Meyer should want Miller rushing the ball because he's the most electric runner in college football this side of De'Anthony Thomas. He's a lethal weapon in space. He is two-footed human absurdity.

At the same time, Meyer should also want Miller to be able to stick it out for the whole season—especially with a season finale that's as much of an event as Ohio State-Michigan is to those schools. So the evidence suggests Meyer's walking a fine line with this heavy workload for Miller, especially with Miller having almost as many rushes as Hyde and Jordan Hall combined.

It just doesn't seem sustainable, and unless Meyer cuts back on Miller's carries, the only thing that's going to keep Miller from a significant injury is basically prayer. Good luck with that.