The Ohio State Buckeyes woke up Monday morning as legitimate national title contenders. By Monday night, their status was in doubt, and by late Tuesday morning, it was in shambles.
Braxton Miller, the two-time defending Big Ten Player of the Year, will miss the entire 2014 season after re-injuring his shoulder at a Monday practice.
Needless to say, the feeling in Columbus must be pretty sour.
“Yeah, that’s a pretty good word for it,” theozone.net Ohio State writer Tony Gerdeman said on The MoJo Show. “We had talked to the team at the Media Days last month, and tight end Jeff Heuerman was asked how important Braxton Miller’s health was to the Buckeyes, and his answer was, ‘How important is LeBron James’ health to the Cavaliers?’ So that gives you a sense of (Miller’s) importance to his team.”
According to Ohio State, Miller was hurt during a non-contact drill.
“It was just a little out route, and he felt something pop,” Gerdeman said. “And it was one of those things that could have happened at any point, which tells you that he probably wasn’t as 100 percent as they thought or had been telling people he was.”
Miller had surgery in February to repair his right shoulder, which he injured during the first drive of the Orange Bowl. He did not throw in the spring but worked his way back into the mix this summer.
“The plan was to get him 100 percent right before the Navy game,” Gerdeman said, “and obviously that’s not going to happen.”
And so, J.T. Barrett, the floor is yours. The redshirt freshman will start against Navy on Aug. 30.
“The good thing is he has two or three Urban Meyer recruiting classes to throw to and hand the ball off to, so there’s plenty of weapons for him to use,” Gerdeman said. “Now he’s just got to get out there and do it. I mean, he hasn’t thrown a real pass in a game since October 2012, so it’s been a while for him.”
The Wichita Falls, Texas, native was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in America before tearing his ACL as a high school senior. He is similar to last year’s graduated backup, Kenny Guiton, in that he looks to pass before he runs and can distribute the ball quickly.
“He’s got a lot of abilities,” Gerdeman said. “He just has to get out there and show them.”
Still, many believe Ohio State is now a long-shot to reach the four-team playoff. Gerdeman, in fact, felt that way even with a healthy Miller.
“I don’t know that (the injury) changes much because I think Michigan State was probably the favorite anyway because they play Ohio State at home, and I’m big on home schedules,” he said. “I think Michigan State remains the favorite. I think Ohio State would still be favored over everybody else they play except Michigan State because the schedule is pretty fair.”
While the offensive line is by no means set in stone, Barrett has at his disposal seven offensive players who can run a 4.4. That includes, in all likelihood, sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, who is the unenviable position of replacing Carlos Hyde.
“Braxton Miller may have been the MVP (last year), but Carlos Hyde was the heart and soul,” Gerdeman said. “The way he ran, he dominated the middle of the field. Ezekiel Elliott is not that type of guy. He’s a big kid. He’s fast, but he’s also 6-0 and around 225, 230. So he’s not some speed back that people might think would be an Urban Meyer type guy. He can get to the edge or he can go right up the middle. He’s got the potential to be the perfect running back for what Urban Meyer wants to do because he can spread out, he can be a receiver and he can do all the little things.”
“But does he have the offensive line to give him a little bit of room to become a Carlos Hyde dominator? That’s what (we’ll have to see).”