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Ohio State Football: 3 Players Who Must Step Up After Braxton Miller's Injury

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: Jeff Heuerman #86 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs with the ball for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
David RegimbalFeatured Columnist IVNovember 30, 2016

In the wake of Braxton Miller's season-ending shoulder injury, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football team are hoping to regroup quickly to gear up for another Big Ten and national title run.

For that to happen, though, a number of Buckeyes must step up to fill the void created by Miller's absence. 

Speaking on ESPN's Mike and Mike radio show (h/t/ The Columbus Dispatch), Meyer said that Miller generated 100 yards of offense on his own—production that Ohio State needs from other players.

That will be easier as the Buckeyes reshape their offense. Meyer wants new quarterback J.T. Barrett to be more of a distributor, a la former backup Kenny Guiton, to take advantage of Ohio State's many offensive weapons.

"I thought Kenny Guiton was one of the best I've been around as far as getting the ball out quickly and distributing to playmakers and letting them run with the ball, let them make plays," Meyer said, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. "That's what my initial evaluation of J.T. is, he's very good at that."

Who must step up to help J.T. Barrett in Miller's absence? 

 

Jeff Heuerman

Tight end Jeff Heuerman had an impressive 2013 season, registering 26 receptions, 466 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He emerged as an indispensable part of Ohio State's passing attack down the stretch, piling up 327 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the Buckeyes' final six games. 

Ohio State needs Heuerman to maintain that momentum.

Jeff Heuerman can make things easier for J.T. Barrett in the passing game.
Jeff Heuerman can make things easier for J.T. Barrett in the passing game.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 6'5", 255-pound pass-catcher thrived just as the Buckeyes' passing attack began to falter last year. Heuerman became a valuable safety valve, and Meyer anticipates a big year for the senior.

"He’s a real weapon, and three years ago he wasn’t," Meyer said of Heuerman, according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch. “He’s really a good player now, and we’ve got to take advantage of that.”

If Heuerman can be a consistent threat in the middle of the field, it would open things up for Ohio State's speed on the perimeter.

Speaking of...

 

Dontre Wilson

With the departure of leading receiver Corey Brown, Meyer and the coaching staff challenged Dontre Wilson to take charge this spring and become the playmaker they need on offense.

Wilson responded in a big way, securing the starting H-Back spot last March.

Commonly referred to as the "Percy Harvin position," Wilson will line up all over the field as the Buckeyes try to attack the weakness of a defense. Meyer apparently wants to expand Wilson's role this year, and with Miller out, he'll be relying on him heavily for the big plays.

"I’m starting at the H, which is the most prolific position in our offense besides running back and quarterback," Wilson said, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors. "I’m getting a lot more touches and more involved in the game.”

Wilson can take a lot of pressure off of Barrett—and the offense as a whole—if he thrives is his new position. 

 

Ezekiel Elliott

With Miller and running back Carlos Hyde in the backfield, Ohio State had one of the most lethal rushing attacks in the country last year.

Tasked with replacing those two dynamic playmakers, Meyer needs running back Ezekiel Elliott to build off a promising freshman campaign.

If Ezekiel Elliott stays healthy, he could have a big year for the Buckeyes.
If Ezekiel Elliott stays healthy, he could have a big year for the Buckeyes.Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Playing in just half of Ohio State's 14 games, Elliott rushed for 262 yards and two touchdowns on just 30 carries, averaging 8.7 yards per rush. He showcased the blend of strength and speed that made Hyde such a devastatingly productive ball-carrier in Meyer's spread offense.

He just needs to stay healthy. 

Elliott fractured his wrist during the Buckeyes' first week of fall camp, but after minor surgery, he has been cleared to return to practice. The former 4-star standout is expected to start alongside Barrett in the backfield, and if he's good to go for the season opener against Navy next Saturday, Ohio State's offense will be much more dangerous.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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