Ohio State’s chances of reaching the inaugural College Football Playoff hinged on the health of star quarterback Braxton Miller. If recent reports out of Columbus are accurate, those chances might have taken a significant hit Monday evening.
Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch and Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors first reported that Miller reinjured his right throwing shoulder in practice, the same one that was surgically repaired in February. May added that the status of Miller’s season was “in jeopardy.”
A source close to the Buckeyes confirmed to SI.com that Miller reinjured his throwing shoulder and that an MRI has been scheduled for Tuesday. The extent of the injury is unknown, but there is a general feeling of unease around the program.
Miller, a senior who threw for 2,094 yards and rushed for 1,068 yards with 36 total touchdowns in 2013, suffered the initial injury during the Buckeyes’ 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. He missed Ohio State’s spring game while sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett split reps.
In the spring, Jones appeared to have the edge on Barrett for the backup spot, but head coach Urban Meyer always emphasized that Miller was key to a successful season. With a retooled offensive line, the Buckeyes needed their leader healthy.
Meyer provided Miller with several opportunities to stay sharp during rehab, simulating a Jon Gruden-style quarterback camp and bringing in NFL coaches and front office personnel as Miller strengthened his throwing arm. In fall practice, Miller admitted some “soreness,” but tried to keep concerns at bay as recently as Monday afternoon.
"I'm doing fine," Miller told reporters. "It's just a progression in my shoulder, just a precaution. I don't want to overdo it before the first game and then I've got to sit out the first game because my muscle is too sore back in the back. It's part of the plan. We just talk about it every day and I do exercises to get the strength back up. I'll be good."
Reports out of camp indicate that Barrett has moved past Jones on the depth chart, and the redshirt freshman may start if Miller misses time. Meyer could employ both quarterbacks much like he used the now-departed Kenny Guiton, who filled in for Miller early in the 2013 campaign.
Barrett was the seventh-rated dual-threat quarterback in the recruiting class of 2013, and he certainly has the tools to make an impact in Ohio State's system. However, he might not be ready to lead the team just yet. Both he and the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jones would face an uphill battle matching the production of a healthy Miller, who was on nearly every preseason Heisman Trophy watch list.
Ohio State’s schedule includes nonconference games against Virginia Tech and Cincinnati. The Buckeyes visit defending Big Ten champ Michigan State Nov. 8.
Meyer’s recruiting prowess has paid dividends, and the team has plenty of skill-position players poised to make an impact. Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson, for example, have big-play abilities. Still, while much remains unknown, the news of Miller's injury certainly tempers expectations in Columbus.
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