When Ohio State takes the field Saturday for the first time this season against Navy, it will do so without quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller.
The explosive signal-caller suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder during practice on Aug. 18, and it was determined that he will miss the entire 2014 campaign, according to ESPN.com.
That is obviously a huge blow to the Buckeyes as they enter the season as the No. 5 team in the country with national championship aspirations as well. Those dreams aren't crushed yet, but they will unquestionably be far more difficult to attain.
On the plus side, Miller has since undergone surgery and started his recovery in hopes of getting back to full health for the 2015 slate. Per ESPN Big Ten on Twitter, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer revealed that the surgery went as expected:
Following the procedure, Miller posted a photo of himself with Dr. James Andrews on his Instagram account and relayed a positive message as well:
"Me & the best to do it , Dr. Andrews after surgery today! So happy this man said everything went well!"
Despite the fact that Miller is on the shelf, he was still voted one of the Buckeyes' team captains for 2014, according to Meyer:
Per ESPN.com's Austin Ward, Meyer plans to use Miller as a captain throughout the season, although he won't be present for the opener at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore against the Midshipmen.
"He'll be one of the 70 (on the travel roster this season) if he can go," Meyer said. "He won't be able to go this time, but there will be times where we'll have to make that decision."
It would be easy for someone in Miller's position to pout and have a woe-is-me attitude, but that seemingly hasn't been the case at all. Miller has said all the right things and even shared an inspirational message on his Twitter account:
Even though a return in 2014 is out of the question, Miller is excited about his future prospects at Ohio State. Since his red shirt is still in play, Miller currently plans to return to the program next season in an attempt to lead the Buckeyes to a title, according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch.
I love Ohio State and Buckeye Nation, and my goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever. I am on course to graduate in December and I want to attend graduate school, and then return to lead the Buckeyes next season. ... In the meantime, I want to give all the support I can to my coaches and teammates as they chase a championship this season.
It remains to be seen how quickly Miller will be able to recover from surgery, but he will be afforded plenty of time to do so. Since he has already been shut down for the season, his sole focus can now be on rehabilitation and playing in 2015.
Being without Miller this year is obviously unfortunate for Buckeyes fans, but it gives them something to get excited about for next season. Ohio State's window of opportunity will stay open for an extra year, and it still has a chance to compete for a Big Ten crown in 2014 as well.
With Miller out of the picture for now, red-shirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett will take the reins. He has big expectations to live up to, but he is also surrounded by a strong supporting cast.
The pressure of being compared to an elite talent like Miller won't be easy, however, it hasn't been uncommon for red-shirt freshman quarterbacks to make a big splash in recent years.
Miller won't be on the field this season, but he could be a valuable commodity in terms of helping Barrett understand what it means to be Ohio State's quarterback.
Barrett will be on his own this weekend against Navy, though, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his first career start.
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