Braxton Miller's Senior Bowl Showing Another Recruiting Tool for Ohio State

Ben AxelrodBig Ten Lead WriterJanuary 28, 2016

Ohio State's Braxton Miller #1 runs through drills for the North during NCAA college football practice for the Senior Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, at Ladd–Peebles Stadium, in Mobil, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

With a Super Bowl-high five players to set to play in the NFL's championship game, Ohio State has unsurprisingly used its heavy representation in the professional ranks as just another sales pitch on the recruiting trail.

One look at Urban Meyer's Twitter account shows a head coach who's clearly proud of his team's presence in the Super Bowl and isn't shy about letting any of his 369,000 followers know it.

But with two weeks sandwiched between the NFL's conference championships and the biggest game of the season, the Buckeyes have found another way to sell their program's ability to put players in the pros.

And it happens to come in the form of a player who just finished one of Columbus' most storied football careers despite finding his football future in doubt merely a year ago.

If you've been following coverage of the Senior Bowl from Mobile, Alabama, it's been hard to miss Braxton Miller's name in the past week. On several occasions, draft analysts and media members in attendance have taken to Twitter to rave about the progress of the former Ohio State wideout, who will play for the North team in Saturday's All-Star Game:

The fact that Miller is even in a position to be drafted—let alone potentially in the first two rounds of the draft—could be considered a success in and of itself, considering where the Huber Heights, Ohio, native's football fate stood just a year ago.

After a torn labrum in fall camp forced a second offseason shoulder surgery and brought his 2014 season to an end before it had even started, Miller's career as a quarterback—the position he had played at Ohio State for the first three years of his college career—appeared very much in doubt.

What's more, Miller was returning to a roster that already possessed quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, who had just co-piloted the Buckeyes to the first College Football Playoff National Championship.

Rumors of an offseason transfer for the 2015 season persisted, but there was no guarantee that Miller's shoulder would ever be healthy enough to play quarterback again.

As fall camp approached, the 6'2", 215-pounder had accepted that reality and announced to's Pete Thamel that he would be making the move not to another school but to a new position in the Ohio State offense as a wide receiver.

"This is the smarter thing for right now," Miller told Thamel of his transition.

Jan 27, 2016; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad wide receiver Braxton Miller of Ohio State (1) works against a Dallas Cowboys assistant coach on a drill during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

It also may have been the smarter thing for the long term as well, as the former dual-threat quarterback also seemed to possess the most pro potential as a pass-catcher rather than a pass-thrower.

Miller's efficiency with his arm (career 59.4 completion percentage) had always been a question mark, while his ability with his legs and in the open field (3,315 career rushing yards and 33 career rushing touchdowns) had never been in doubt.

But outside of the Buckeyes' season-opening win over Virginia Tech, which saw Miller star in his new role as a wide receiver and Wildcat quarterback, the transition to his new position proved easier said than done.

Inconsistent play from a rotation of Jones and Barrett in the starting lineup didn't help, but by season's end, Miller had caught just 26 balls for 341 yards and three touchdowns, adding 260 yards and a score on the ground.

Perhaps more tellingly, Miller attempted—and completed—just one pass, which was more of a push than anything else, signaling that his future in football was indeed at wide receiver and nowhere else.

"Quarterback is in the past," Miller stated during media availability at the Senior Bowl, per "I learned a lot playing quarterback."

While criticisms that Meyer and his staff misused Miller last season are fair, his breakout showing in Mobile is proof of a player who was prepared to star at wideout in 2015 but got lost in the shuffle due to extenuating circumstances.

Having not played wide receiver since his freshman season of high school prior to 2015, the two-time Big Ten MVP has starred as an outside wideout this week after primarily playing in the slot this past season.

Miller has superb ability as an athlete—he claims his goal for the NFL Scouting Combine is to run a 4.28-second 40-yard dash—but the type of progress he's shown this past week doesn't happen without the preparation of Meyer and his staff.

That's something the Buckeyes already appear to be pitching on the recruiting trail, if the pride they've taken in Miller's Senior Bowl showing on social media is any indication:

Only adding to the intrigue of Miller's big week is that this isn't just some workout warrior emerging during the start of the "silly season" that is the NFL draft process but rather one of the Ohio State program's most prominent players for the better part of the past half-decade.

Miller was one of the Buckeyes' best recruiting tools during his time on campus, having been pictured consistently posing with prospects during their visits to Columbus.

Only from now on, Ohio State will no longer be able to sell Miller's presence to prospects but rather his preparation for the pros.

And who knows? Maybe it won't be long before the Buckeyes are touting a Miller appearance in the Super Bowl to their targets on the recruiting trail.

Based on how he's performed this week, the former face of the Ohio State program seems to be on the right path for a successful career in the NFL.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.