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Can Braxton Miller be Buckeyes' superman again?

2/20/2015

Injuries have a tendency to make players disappear, especially when their stand-ins sparkle. It has been the case for Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, who has won seven Big Ten individual awards in his career yet finds himself as somewhat of a forgotten man.

Buckeyes fans are still giddy about the national championship, secured in large part because of Cardale Jones, the third-string quarterback who stepped up under the brightest of lights. Ohio State wouldn't have had a chance for a title run without J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman who started all 12 regular-season games and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Miller always was loud with his play but incredibly quiet off of the field. That he hasn't addressed the media since re-injuring his throwing shoulder in August underscores his introverted nature. Speculation about transfers to Oregon, Florida State and everywhere in between has bubbled up, as has some buzz about a possible position switch.

But for now, Miller is at Ohio State, working his way back from injury as a quarterback. According to quarterback coach George Whitfield, who has worked with Miller during his career, Miller has every intention of reclaiming his starting job.

From The Blade's David Briggs:

In a wide-ranging interview at the combine on Thursday, Whitfield refuted speculation Miller entertained transferring from Ohio State, said the two-time Big Ten MVP has no plans to switch positions and expressed excitement at the pace of the quarterback’s recovery from a torn labrum.

Miller recently began throwing a football for the first time since undergoing surgery in August. Twice a week, he sends Whitfield video of his throwing sessions, which have advanced to include long toss.

Asked if Miller would be full strength by the start of fall camp in August — a timetable widely considered ambitious — Whitfield said, "Oh, yeah, that’s very realistic. When the summer hits and those guys begin summer workouts [in June], he'll be 100 percent."

Whitfield had high praise for Miller, telling Briggs that while Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are standouts in their own right, Miller is a "super hero."

Miller played the role of superman for much of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, making big plays happen with his feet and his arms. He got some help from running back Carlos Hyde and others, but was unquestionably the driver of the offense. It likely won't be the case in 2015 as Ohio State returns standout running back Ezekiel Elliott and a deeper corps of receivers than Miller ever had at his disposal.

It will be interesting to see how Miller works with this new, evolved Buckeyes offense, one that asks a lot from its quarterback, but not everything. Whitfield is convinced Miller would/will shine.

From The Blade:

Had Braxton played and ... you saw the development of the running game and you saw the young receivers like Mike Thomas and Devin Smith. You saw what the defense was able to do. You saw that [offensive coordinator] Tom Herman was on a heater this year and coach [Urban] Meyer was just masterful in how they approached each team. You have a veteran like Braxton, a two-time player of the year, he can draw from all that veteran experience, I mean, they would have been looking for the Roman Army to take on if he’d been leading them.

It's such a fascinating dynamic at Ohio State as Jones, the only healthy quarterback in spring practice, seemingly would have an edge over the others. But Barrett showed during the season that he's capable of doing big things, and Miller, the best athlete of the three, has a track record that should never be discounted.

If Miller is the same athlete who has evolved in other areas, he'll be tough to beat out.