Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller was regarded as one of the top Heisman Trophy contenders ahead of the 2014 college football season. Now Miller has been lost for the year when he re-injured his right throwing shoulder in practice on Monday.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt reported the ominous news:
Was told Ohio State expecting Braxton Miller to miss entire season. Release expected later today. Big blow for that team.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) August 19, 2014
Last week's edition of ESPN.com's "Heisman Watch" list had Miller as the No. 4 candidate to take home the prestigious award at season's end.
Although Miller's injury makes a big impact on how the rest of the running order shapes up, there are still two clear-cut favorites to land the game's most coveted individual hardware.
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and Florida State signal-caller Jameis Winston are at the top, while dynamic running backs in Todd Gurley (Georgia) and Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) are also commanding some deserved hype.
Sportscaster Kenny Roda documented the results of another prominent poll prior to Miller's injury:
ESPN MAG- College Confidential- Players pick to win the 2014 Heisman- 1) Marcus Mariota - 44%, 2) Jameis Winston - 24%, 3) Braxton Miller 9%— Kenny Roda (@TheKennyRoda) August 16, 2014
Here is a look at the updated odds, courtesy of OddsShark.com:
|Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State||9-2|
|Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon||5-1|
|Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA||10-1|
|Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor||12-1|
|Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin||12-1|
|Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn||12-1|
|Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia||14-1|
|Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma||18-1|
|Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama||20-1|
|Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame||20-1|
|T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama||20-1|
Based on the fact that 11 of the past 13 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks, though, those whose outlooks improved the most after Miller's injury are UCLA's Brett Hundley and Baylor senior Bryce Petty.
Both could have declared for the most recent NFL draft, yet they opted to stay, and now have an even better chance to string together a respectable Heisman campaign.
This detail from NFL Network scouting expert Daniel Jeremiah shows how Hundley may translate well to the pros, but he may not be in the proper situation to secure the Heisman:
Studying some more Brett Hundley video today... Can't question his toughness. He takes some HUGE shots in the pocket.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 13, 2014
A pro-style offense under former NFL coach Jim Mora and more time in the pocket will likely lend to efficiency over explosiveness despite his immense talent. Meanwhile, Petty has a great chance to build on a monster 2013 that saw him throw for 4,340 yards and account for 46 total touchdowns.
Check out this production from Petty and the Bears offense, which could be even more prolific with more defensive help, per ESPN CollegeFootball:
Mariota ought to resemble his tremendous 2013 campaign, too. With one more year of polish as a passer, his knack for accuracy, arm talent and superior athleticism, Mariota figures to be Winston's top challenger as a potential repeat winner.
Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher operates a complex system that Winston operated smoothly even as a freshman. However, he also leaned on a defense that lost several stars to the pros, along with a rushing attack that saw Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. depart from last year's national champion.
New feature back Karlos Williams recently seemed confident in what Winston was doing and how he'll fare as a sophomore, via the Tallahassee Democrat's Natalie Pierre:
Karlos Williams was asked how Jameis played today: "Jameis is Jameis Winston. Jameis is gonna make his plays when they're there."— Natalie Pierre (@Natalie_Pierre) August 12, 2014
Who is your favorite to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy?
Miller's absence will leave far more of an imprint on the Ohio State program and its chances to contend for a national title and the Big Ten championship. Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com pointed out that left tackle Taylor Decker was the only returning starter on the offensive line.
Without departed NFL running back Carlos Hyde and with a raw line, it would have been an uphill fight for Miller to get into the Heisman conversation on the same plane as Mariota and Winston anyway.