Ohio State Football: Braxton Miller's Road to the Heisman Trophy in 2014

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured Columnist IVMarch 30, 2017

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After pondering an early jump to the NFL, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is set to return to Columbus, Ohio for his senior season. 

The big news, announced by the school's official Twitter account, is huge for the Buckeyes, who will be poised to make a run at major college football's first playoff. For Miller, though, one more year means one more chance to win the Heisman Trophy.

The Buckeyes' signal-caller has thrived under Urban Meyer, piling up 6,472 yards of total offense and 64 touchdowns (39 passing, 25 rushing) over the last two years. Miller finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy race in 2012 and ninth in 2013.

To take home the most prestigious award in college football, Miller will need to overcome some big obstacles in 2014.


Finding the Support

The Buckeyes will be losing four starters along one of the best offensive lines in the country. Seniors Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall won't be back to protect or open running lanes for Miller, so the front line will likely be a work in progress.

The Buckeyes will need to replace Corey Brown, Braxton Miller's favorite target.
The Buckeyes will need to replace Corey Brown, Braxton Miller's favorite target.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Miller will also be losing his most reliable target at wide receiver. Corey Brown, who has led the Buckeyes in receiving yards and receptions over the last two years, is set to graduate. Brown accounted for more than 25 percent of Ohio State's receiving touchdowns in 2013, and while the Buckeyes have a number of talented underclassmen, replacing him will be very difficult.

Of course, the biggest loss the offense will suffer comes with the departure of running back Carlos Hyde. If Meyer and the Buckeyes can't find a suitable replacement for the bruising running back, defenses will key in on Miller in the running game.


Consistent Excellence

Because of those losses, Miller will need to make big strides next season, especially as a passer.

Miller notched career highs in completion percentage (63.5), passing yards (2,094) and touchdowns (24) during his junior season. Those improvements came after enlisting the help of quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. during the offseason, and Miller showcased better mechanics and patience in the pocket as a result.

Consistency will be the biggest key.

During a four-game stretch against Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State, Miller was erratic, completing just 46.2 percent of his passes for 544 yards and seven touchdowns against two interceptions.

A lull like that next season will eliminate him from the Heisman race.


Staying Healthy

Miller will also need to avoid the injuries that have plagued his collegiate career.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is helped up by teammates after a play in the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Miami Gardens, F
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In each of his first three seasons, Miller has been knocked out of a game completely (Nebraska in 2011, Purdue in 2012 and San Diego State in 2013). During his sophomore season, he had to be spelled during the Michigan State, Indiana and Michigan games. This season, he missed most of three games after spraining his knee against the Aztecs. 

That injury knocked Miller out of 2013 Heisman contention early. Another stint on the sideline during his senior season will have the same result.


The Competition

Of course, Miller will have some stiff competition. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is set to return to Florida State, and Nick Marshall, who dueled Winston in the national title game, will be back at Auburn.

Miller certainly has a long road ahead of him if he wants to win the Heisman. He's proven over the last two years that he's one of college football's most exciting players, so watch for him to make a strong run in 2014.


All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.


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