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There is Plenty of Comfort With Braxton Miller at Quarterback if Needed
By Patrick Murphy
The Buckeyes have the luxury of a former Heisman Trophy candidate to bring off the bench at quarterback if needed
Phtoto by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS – It makes sense there was no sense of panic from Ohio State when it was announced that starting quarterback J.T. Barrett would be suspended for this week’s game with Minnesota after being cited for an OVI early Saturday morning.

Cardale Jones started the first seven games of the year, winning each, but the offensive coaching staff had a safety blanket in Barrett, who led the team to an 11-1 record last season.

With Barrett out this weekend after being named the starter for last week’s game at Rutgers, the Buckeyes have lost that comfort if something happens to Jones… or have they?

Whatever we have to do to use Braxton Miller to win a game, he'll do it,” OSU offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said on Monday. “He's in here yesterday and already today many hours getting ready, so – kid loves Ohio State football and is a team guy, so we're confident that when his number is called, he will be ready.

Talk about bringing experience off the bench, Miller was the starting quarterback for three seasons for Ohio State and was a Heisman Trophy candidate before he hurt his throwing shoulder twice, forcing him to miss his senior season.

Miller announced a switch from quarterback to wide receiver over the offseason, but he could be forced back to his old position this weekend.

“He’s a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year at quarterback,” senior left tackle Taylor Decker said when asked about Miller going back behind center. “I think that’s about all you need to say. Obviously he’s spent a ton of his time at wide receiver and he’s done a really good job for us at that position, but the kid’s a playmaker and he’ll do whatever the team needs him to do.”

It’s not like there is no precedent for Miller to go back to quarterback. In nearly every game this season, the redshirt senior has lineup at his old position, taking the direct snap and running the wildcat offense. According to the offensive coaches, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Miller can do back there.

We have had a package each week with Braxton at quarterback, so you've seen him out there running quarterback,” Warinner said. “You've just seen a small sample size that we've used in the course of the recent games, but there's much more that's available to us with him there, so we'll just get more work at that, and evolve that as much as we can so we're ready to go.”

Similar to when Barrett came into the game, Miller provides a comfort behind center. He’s not just an athlete taking a direct snap, but he’s a quarterback who knows how to run the offense.

Can Braxton Miller still throw like he used to?
Photo by Dan Harker

As far as the mechanics of getting a play, we're at home, too, which is good,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “Getting a play to – it’s not just running around the end, it's getting everybody lined up, getting the play, getting the formation, and all that.

“And that's the thing when you try to say, ‘Hey, let Zeke [Elliott] do some direct snaps,’ that's hard. You remember last year we did that to Jalin [Marshall] as well. Braxton it's not. It's no issue.”

The two biggest questions remaining with Miller is how healthy is his shoulder after the two surgeries and can he throw the ball?

He's completely healed and he's medically able to go, so behind the scenes there is a lot of things that he's been doing that nobody knows about,” Warinner said. “So we're confident that he will do whatever he needs to do to help us win a game.”

Whenever Miller has spoken to the media this season, he has shied away from the topic of throwing the ball. While he claims he can do it fine, he wants to focus on his new position.

I can throw, but I just don’t think it’s important right now for me to be throwing,” Miller said before the Penn State game. “My main focus is playing receiver and focus on what I’ve got to focus on for my position right now.”

Due to Barrett’s suspension, that focus has shifted back for Miller.

He can throw,” Meyer said. “How prepared is he to throw? So we're going to work on that this week as well and get him ready to go.”

There have always been doubters of Miller. He’s not big enough to play quarterback, he doesn’t have the arm strength, he can’t make the transition to wide receiver over one offseason. So far he’s proven all of those wrong.

This week, he has a chance to do that again if needed in a backup roll to Jones, something in which his teammates are very comfortable.

“I’m fine with that,” Decker said of Miller at quarterback. “All I’ll say is I’m fine with it.”

Player profiles relevant to story:
1 - Miller, Braxton | 68 - Decker, Taylor | Coach - Meyer, Urban | Coach - Warinner, Ed
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