Updates from Wednesday, Aug. 20
Meyer said the team’s mood after Miller went down was “devastating."— Ozone Communications (@theOzonedotnet) August 20, 2014
Meyer said he’s heard Miller’s injury to a 9-12 month recovery.— Ozone Communications (@theOzonedotnet) August 20, 2014
The worst possible scenario for the Ohio State football team is now a reality less than two weeks before the season starts.
Ohio State Athletics reports quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the 2014 season:
Official Statement: Braxton Miller will miss 2014 season Sr/QB re-injured right shoulder Monday throwing short pass http://t.co/JSrMNpCn2a— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) August 19, 2014
Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch had the initial report regarding quarterback Miller’s health Monday evening, and Brett McMurphy of ESPN provided the sobering news Tuesday:
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller is out for the season, a source told @ESPN— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) August 19, 2014
Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel provides more details on the nature of the injury and how the ailment occurred:
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the 2014 season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
Miller tore the labrum in a non-contact drill at practice on Monday night while attempting to throw a pass seven yards. He had received limited competitive reps in camp -- fewer than 20, the source said -- because the coaching staff wanted to ease him back into play. Miller originally injured the shoulder on the first possession of Ohio State’s 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. Miller missed spring practice after having surgery in February.
Given the fact that Ohio State lost bruising running back Carlos Hyde to the NFL and four of its five starting offensive linemen from a year ago, this injury is particularly worrisome. Perhaps even more important now is the loss of QB Kenny Guiton to graduation.
Miller was seen as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate for 2014 after posting 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air and 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground last year. Perhaps most damaging of all is the impact on Miller's potential NFL career that could have really used a boost with a productive senior season.
Somehow, life will have to move on for the Buckeyes with the season rapidly approaching. May provided some details on the contingency plan:
It likely means redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett will start when the Buckeyes open the season against Navy on Aug. 30 in Baltimore. Barrett moved ahead of sophomore Cardale Jones last week in the competition to back up Miller, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report had a nugget about that contest with Navy that is sure to interest some viewers:
Looks like sports books have started to take down Ohio State-Navy game off the board. It was at 17.5.— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) August 19, 2014
It wasn’t that long ago that co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner wasn’t particularly concerned with Miller’s health, via Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors:
We’re kind of bringing him along slowly. I think we have a really good plan to get him where he needs to be Aug. 30. We definitely don’t need to rush it.
I love Braxton’s work ethic, his attitude, his mentality. His mindset is awesome. His understanding of the game is great, and his leadership has improved. We’re just letting him come along physically.
It’s part of the plan. There was no he got the hook in the middle of the day. It was all planned out. We’re doing that with some other guys who started a lot who are coming off injuries, just watching their volume until they build into it.
That is clearly no longer the case. Instead, Ohio State's once-promising College Football Playoff chances are in serious jeopardy. The biggest concern of all, especially given the loss of Hyde and the majority of the offensive line, is the lack of experience under center. ESPN Stats & Info provided the discouraging details in that regard:
Ohio State QB Depth Chart 2014 Season Career Attempts Braxton Miller 666 Cardale Jones 2 J.T. Barrett 0— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 19, 2014
SportsCenter on Twitter provided this interesting stat:
Braxton Miller's 6 game-winning drives in 4th quarter or OT are most of any returning FBS quarterback. pic.twitter.com/yQN57X4w4c— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 19, 2014
Turning the reins over to a freshman was once unthinkable in Columbus, but it has become business as usual in recent years. Dave Biddle of Bucknuts.com added more:
OSU went 30 years between freshman starting QBs (Schlichter '78, Pryor '08). Now they'll have 3 in the last 7 years (Pryor, Brax, Barrett).— Dave Biddle (@davebiddle) August 19, 2014
You would be forgiven if you were a glass-half-empty sports fan and you abandoned hope for a postseason appearance. However, the preseason is for optimism, and Eleven Warriors, Alex Gleitman of Bucknuts.com and Kramer provided a dose of that:
Silver lining: Backups Jones and Barrett took all of the reps during spring practice and many more so far in fall camp.— Eleven Warriors (@11W) August 19, 2014
Will say if reports true that JT Barrett can ball...will have to overcome lack of experience but the kid can play— Alex Gleitman (@alexgleitman) August 19, 2014
(Psst. Ohio State is still immensely talented and can make the CFB Playoff despite that fire you are lighting.)— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) August 19, 2014
Still, even the most optimistic fans would admit that the Buckeyes are in some trouble without their star playmaker.
Remember, we are talking about the two-time defending winner of the Big Ten Silver Football as the conference’s best player and one of the most dynamic athletes in the country. The previously mentioned loss of Hyde and Guiton cannot be overstated, either.
Hyde rumbled for 1,521 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2013 even though he missed three games and single-handedly won some nail-biters (the Northwestern contest comes to mind). Guiton threw for 749 yards and 14 touchdowns and added 330 yards and five touchdowns on the ground last year. He also started multiple games and rescued the Buckeyes when Miller was periodically injured throughout the past two years.
Now that Miller is out for the season, the national-title expectations that are in place every year in Columbus fall on the inexperienced shoulders of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.
Don't let the talking heads who decry a weak Big Ten every year fool you, either. The Buckeyes will be tested a number of times this season, including in the nonconference portion of the slate against a dangerous Navy team, Virginia Tech and a Cincinnati squad that will be hungry to shock the state's bully.
Who wins the Big Ten?
In conference, Ohio State has to face a resurgent Penn State team under the lights in what will be the Nittany Lions' Super Bowl, square off in the annual clash with archrival and hated Michigan that came down to the last play in 2013 and play Michigan State in a rematch of the Big Ten Championship Game.
The Spartans contained the Buckeyes offense with Miller at the helm in a neutral-site contest last year. Playing that stout defense on the road at night with a possible playoff spot on the line is plenty of pressure for a tested senior, let alone freshman Barrett.
Fair or not, the only way a Big Ten team is getting to the College Football Playoff is by winning the conference. If the Buckeyes can't beat fellow East Division member Michigan State, they probably aren't even reaching the conference title game, given the tiebreaker scenario in this hypothetical.
Not having No. 5 under center will certainly make the task at hand even more difficult.