Braxton Miller is Critical to Ohio State's Success, But What Happens if He Gets Hurt?

By Patrick Maks on July 18, 2014 at 1:00p
Braxton Miller is great. But with Kenny Guiton gone, what happens if he gets hurt?

Every morning, before the dreaded running portion of winter workouts, the Ohio State football team came together to watch itself fall apart.

“We gotta get motivated early in the morning and watch a video of the team that we lost to,” Braxton Miller said in February.

Watch. Workout. Rewind. Watch. Workout. Rewind.

“It’s a chip on our shoulder,” he said.  

Of course it is. After winning a ridiculous 24-straight games and nearly sealing a berth to its first national championship game in six seasons, the Buckeyes collapsed in the worst way.

But of all the people to be so very open and honest of how losses to Clemson and, especially, Michigan State, left a searing pain deep inside the Buckeyes, Miller is the least likely candidate.

On the field, the senior quarterback is one of college football’s most electrifying players. Off of it, he’s shy and quiet with reporters. He’s a man of few words. He likes to play coy.

Here, though, Miller, unprompted, chose to ever-so-slightly peel back the curtain covering a team still intensively operating on its open wounds.

In March, coach Urban Meyer vowed to restore the fundamentals of a culture that started to crumble and continues to play a role in an “overhaul” of a defense that came undone last year.

With the promise of a new season and a new start nearing closer each day, there has been healing. But scars remain. How couldn’t they?

Still, Ohio State finds itself as again a favorite to win the Big Ten title and a watery schedule in a struggling league gives the Buckeyes a real chance at an ascent back to being a step or two from the sport’s zenith.  

That chip on the shoulder Miller talks of will help, too. It’s motivation. The way he plays in his final year of eligibility should be an embodiment of it.

Because if there’s one person who can guide Ohio State to college football’s mecca, it’s the kid from Huber Heights.

“He’s got to be a defensive coordinator’s nightmare,” college football guru Phil Steele told Eleven Warriors.

There are few players of his caliber and perhaps fewer who can sway the outcome of a game and even an entire season like he can.

It’s why a world without Braxton Miller is, and will continue to be, a terrifying thought for the Buckeyes.

Don’t take that the wrong way: Miller’s the epicenter of Ohio State’s success and has been for most of his career. He’s also proven himself to be injury prone, missing part of a game against Purdue in 2012 (head/neck injury) and nearly three full games (San Diego State, California, Florida A&M) in 2013 with a sprained MCL.

“Braxton Miller’s style has led to some injuries, we’ve seen him come out of games every single year,” Steele said. “Can Braxton Miller stay healthy?”

Worst case, assume he doesn’t.

Could the Buckeyes win without him? Probably.

Could they win enough to capture a Big Ten or national title? That’s harder to say.

Miller, who’s been a bailout for the Buckeyes since he arrived in Columbus, had a bailout himself last season with a historically powerful run game. Backup quarterback and fan favorite Kenny Guiton was a security blanket too.

Without Guiton, Carlos Hyde and an offensive line that’ll go down as one of the school’s best, Ohio State’s offensive margin for error has plummeted. Miller could make mistakes last season. They could be mitigated.

This season, he returns to a largely inexperienced supporting cast and a pair of backups in Cardale Jones and J.T Barrett, who combined for a sloppy 277 yards on 31-of-64 attempts during the team’s Spring Game in April.

One game without Miller could cost Ohio State in a season where one loss will more than likely derail its hopes at a bid in the postseason’s new four-team playoff.

That won’t do much to vindicate a season that started with replaying video tapes over and over of what was and what could’ve been.


Comments Show All Comments

BucksFan2000's picture

Answer: we're boned.

+11 HS
whiskeyjuice's picture

I'm hoping the new skill players that OSU will be playing this year will make things easier if a back up QB comes in. Maybe a lot of quick outs, slants or screens. And hoping the skill players are good enough to break tackles and make people miss. Haven't had that for a long time with the WR's in the OSU offense.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

45buckshot's picture

I have to admit, I was having a good day until i saw this... speak no evil! we could beat Purdue, Illinois, maybe a couple of others without him, but if the Braxster goes down during crunch time we will be boned; there's no smooth jazz to save our bacon this year. I think Barrett will be good eventually, but Guiton was a senior and played like one, not an unblooded newb. Freshman Qbs are always good for at least one loss; you can't expect Jones or Barrett to come in and fill in like Guiton did. Jones I think will be effective running the ball, Barrett eventually passing, but a good defense would squash them. Make offerings to whatever football gods you believe in, because we need the Brax attack to stay healthy!!!

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
—G.K. Chesterton

+3 HS
Jeremypreemo81's picture

scary scary thought.  without Kenny G as a backup it would be awful hard for us to win multiple games without Brax.  Hopefully he passes more and runs less.  our O line needs to step it up this year in order to keep Brax healthy.

+1 HS
bucknasty13's picture

I guess it depends on who we're playing.  I could see us easily winning multiple games with out Braxton.

+1 HS
gm3jones's picture

but we would certainly lose a few, depending on the length of B mill being out. dont even like thinking about it.

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

WezBuck28's picture

This is why we need to get these back ups plenty of reps during the season, especially during keep them fresh so to speak. You can't expect a guy to come into a tight game and take over with out any "game like experience" under his hat..this is where we will truly miss smooth jazz coming off the bench! I think we will be fine because of the weapons we have on offense..

+4 HS
Buckeye1004's picture

As a Buckeye stuck in Oklahoma, I saw the failure of not playing backups in blow outs with OU several years ago.  I believe they were playing LSU in the Championship Game.  The QB went down and the backup hadn't had any reps during a season full of blowouts.  Stoops took some heat on that one after LSU won the Championship Game.  I'd love to see Miller have a crack at the Heisman but its a team sport and to me, the Championship is more important.  I hope to see plenty of reps for the backups after Mr. Miller gives us a nice cushy lead!

+2 HS
WezBuck28's picture

We all know what kind of a player miller is, and what he is capable of...he doesn't need a trophy to show everyone he knows how to play..get these pups some reps!!

+1 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Before the '12 Purdue game, everyone thought Ohio State would be screwed if Braxton went out. I think some are counting out CJ too soon.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+7 HS
Fatpants's picture

We would be fine against most of the schedule, but our ceiling would come WWWAAAAYYYYY down.

I'm just a poo gas huffin' toilet snorkeler at heart....

+2 HS
CHUCKMEGA's picture

I also thing they need to run more bubble screens to prevent the hits on Miller but also to utilize Dontre's and the other youngsters speed

+3 HS
PasadenaBuckeye626's picture

Stuff will be broken in my house if he gets hurt

Go Bucks!

+7 HS
bucknasty13's picture

Stuff will be broken at some point.

+3 HS
Hovenaut's picture

The progress of the offensive line is important, very important. But I also hope see a greater amount of ball distribution to keep number five alive.

There is enough talent to go around at the skill spots. Get the ball out of Brax's hands early and often, let him sprinkle in a change-up or two here and there and keep opposing defenses off-balance.

I also agree with WezBuck28 above, let Cardale/JT get some reps when possible.

+5 HS
bukyze's picture

Cardale/JT needs to get reps and actually THROW the ball, instead of just running it every single time like Cardale did last year.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

When you're up 400 points, throwing isn't necessary.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+2 HS
chirobuck's picture

For getting your back ups ready in case of an is absolutely necessary


^ best post ever ^

+2 HS
MikeTheBuckeye's picture

I think Urban saw something when we played Michigan and Clemson. A new wrinkle in the spread offense. The use of perimeter weapons and the misdirection to throw an entire defense off. At the conclusion of the season he called together a coaching clinic with the likes of spread offense pioneers Dabo Swinney and Kevin Sumlin. With the speed and talent we posses on the perimeter (as young and inexperienced as they are) I believe Urban saw something that will help him utilize this strength. I'm excited to see what he pieced together in the offseason.

Earle's picture

Didn't Biddle ask this question first?

Snarkies gonna snark. 

+18 HS
Hovenaut's picture

For permission?

Maks asks.

+1 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

If the past is the best predictor of the future, he will miss some games.  How that affects team success will depend on which games those are and how our #2 guy performs.  If he does miss some games, I just don't want any of them to be on Nov 8th, Nov 29th, or beyond.

+2 HS
TMac511's picture

I remember seeing Kenny G run in for a TD in some of his first action against Eastern Michigan in 2010. He came out of nowhere for the most part, so why can't Cardale Jones or JT Barrett? It's hard to say Barrett is coming out of nowhere when he was one of the QBs tapped to attend the Elite 11 camp. I think getting these guys some experience will be beneficial for the future of our offense. I hope with our revamped defense and attacking offense that we can kick the crap out of some teams this year, and get those guys the valuable game experience they need.

+4 HS
umbyosu's picture

great point; however everyone looked good that day against EMU.......oh wait, we never played that game in 2010

+2 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

tOSU better have a good back up plan and hope Miller stays healthy. He's had a glass jaw since he was at Wayne.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

buckeyecountry's picture

If he goes down it will not end well. Braxton needs to let others do the running. His jersey will have a huge target.

-1 HS
ECSAGESTER's picture

And this is where the depth of Ohio State's recruiting will really help. With more edge guys and a stable at running back, Braxton hopefully won't be in a position to get hurt very often. 

+1 HS
cw823's picture

He'll play in all the games this year.  He'll still have some of his typical long runs where a so-so hit will leave him laying on the ground like an international soccer player, but that's just Braxton being Braxton.

After the first three games defenses will learn Elliot and Wilson will demand just as much attention, if not more, than Braxton Miller.

+2 HS
BuddhaBuck's picture

If the defense can dominate, you can play Tressel-ball... #2002Championship 

Don't text while driving.

+3 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

For Tressel Ball to succeed a Craig Krenzel like QB is required.

MikeTheBuckeye's picture

Tressel started drafting mobile QBs because the offensive line was so bad. I wouldn't say Craig Krenzel would be Tressel's model QB.

+1 HS
Humbuck's picture

Judging Barrett or Jones on the spring game and making any kind of meaningful assessment is pointless.  Judging Jones on the 3rd string mop up duty last year is equally useless. We won't really know where we stand until the #2 guy gets a quarter or two of mop up duty (hopefully he isn't pressed into service before this happens) Both these guys deserve a clean card because neither one has been asked to do anything.  I trust Herman and Meyer to have a back up ready to go full speed. 

Both of these guys have put in time getting ready.  I'm sure one or the other will be a solid back up QB. 

+1 HS
tussey's picture

Not sure who gave you the DV but I agree with you.  Urbs said it himself after the spring game.  There were too many people who will be playing Saturdays this fall, not playing in the Spring game for us to get an accurate picture of life post-Miller.  

robobuck's picture

I'll take Elliott and Jones trading carries behind a warriner line against most B1G teams

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

+1 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

Against an 8 man front???

robobuck's picture

The only pass play: Pitch to marshall on a sweep and the former high school qb passes to Wilson or smith streaking down the sideline.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

BeijingBucks's picture

I see T Shirts coming out for all to wear 'Keep 5 Alive!'

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

+4 HS
BeijingBucks's picture

jokes aside, I don't think spring can or should ever be used as a measure of reality.  first off were there any first teamers even playing?  O Line was laughable and our backups have been busy playing school not getting reps with the 1st.  there are times I feel I could play QB on this offence there are so many weapons (joke after all!)

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Colby3333's picture

No.  Some, but not all & no Championship of any kind.

+1 HS
Montana silver bullet's picture

Right on Robobuck---Elliot's vision and quickness with 250lb Jones working the read option!!!!

Montana Silver Bullet

+1 HS
BuckeyeJAK's picture

 The questions I have are ..Does anyone know what jones and Barrett did this off season ? We know brax was practicing on Friday nights Where were the back ups ?

Mark May is a mental midget

-1 HS
causeicouldntgo43's picture

Hermann has a lot of weapons to deploy, and he has a lot of flexibility to run an offense in the style of last year's if EZ/Dunn/Ball can pick up the slack from Hyde. This would allow more read option calls with Barrett or Jones at the helm and avoids using an inexperienced QB to direct a passing heavy attack.

If Brax stays healthy for the 1st half of the schedule and Jones and Barrett get meaningful reps, they could possibly do very well in the 2nd half without Brax (God forbid). If Brax gets hurt in the 1st half of the season, the weakness of the schedule may allow us to weather the storm enough until he heals and the second half of the schedule comes up.

If Brax goes down early and doesn't come back at all during the season (double God forbid with sprinkles on top)'s anybody's guess.

okiebuck's picture

Same deal for any of the top teams; Florida State if Jameson gets hurt, Baylor if Petty gets dinged, Oregon if Mariotta goes down and on it goes. The position of QB in college football is THE most important in any team sport IMHO.

The key for the Buckeyes this year is for the OL to protect, and Braxton to pitch it more then keep it on the option, throw it quickly and run out of bounds instead of putting the shoulder down for a few extra yards. Six weeks from tomorrow until kickoff; can hardly wait!!

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

+1 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

That wasn't the way it was for Ohio State last year, with Kenny G. THE 2nd most important player on a football team is the back-up QB. I think it's Urban who says a football QB is BY FAR the most important athlete in ALL of sport.

theshoe's picture

Please Herman, no more designed quarter back runs.  Most of the time they only get us a few yards, and we have to cringe hoping for Braxton to not get hurt.  Don't get me wrong, I love to see him running the ball, but only when there's open space, and he actually has something to work with.  I'm not willing to lose Braxton this year for a whopping 4 yard run.

+2 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

Herman CAN NOT remove the most terrifying part for Defensive Co-ordinates out of the Ohio State offense. It would be easier to tell Braxton he has to throw the ball into the 3rd row instead of scrambling when blocking breaks down.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Can OSU win without Braxton?  Not at the level that we all want them to.

Class of 2010.


He improves his passing accuracy he won't have to run. He doesn't? It's a crapshoot as it's always been. Hope Ash fixes that defense.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

SpielmanForPres's picture

I can't see any scenario where OSU would be successful without Braxton. To me successful would be finishing the season in the top 10. 

CTBuckeye's picture

The biggest question might be - is the team prepared mentally for that outcome?  Last year like you mention we had options with Hyde and Guiton that they could really feel comfortable with Miller sitting for a couple of games, but will the offense be too one dimensional this year for the team to make it through even one game without him?  I hope so, but we'll need Jones or JT to really step up and the defense to play above and beyond to keep Ohio State at the same level of competition.

"Because we couldn't go for three"

+1 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

Honestly, I think that they could beat everyone on their schedule except Mich St. and maybe Va. Tech without Miller. It might be closer than we'd like, but they'd win. He is absolutely vital to their success, make no mistake, but they also have a lot of talent at a lot of spots, and IMO, they are that much more talented than the rest of the B1G.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+1 HS
Jeeves's picture

I have to disagree. If at any time during the season he goes down for a game I could see OSU in a dog fight in 6 or even 7 games.

Toilrt Paper's picture

Let alone the "terrifying thought" of Braxton going down. I've had a "terrifying thought" for 2 years what this offense will be like when he graduates,.

As great as Hyde was last year, a new NFL caliber running back is expected to step in without missing a beat every year at Ohio State. Quarterback is an entirely different matter.

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

OSU's defense will be good enough to win games. If Braxton goes down, JT Barrett can manage a game and let the defense take over. Plus, I think our running game will be pretty good with Zeke and Dunn. 

My2Sons's picture

Great title for an article that was so poorly written.  And quite a few of you have really got to man-up.  Be concerned about something if/when it happens.

What a really poorly written article.

-8 HS
grantmeaname's picture

Do you have any criticisms of the actual content?

I think it's a realistic concern and it's certainly something I've been thinking about. Yes, there are a lot of unknowns, like how the backups will do, but that doesn't mean it's totally useless to speculate.

My2Sons's picture

Yes, it does.  I also don't worry about what would happen if the sun explodes, if aliens invade, or if republicans ever get in the White House again.  Unless it happens, what is the sense?

-4 HS
Patrick Maks's picture

Braxton's proven to be injury-prone. When Phil Steele thinks it's an issue, it's worth exploring. 

Jabba1977's picture

God bless Braxton Miller this year Lord,please keep him healthy Amen!!!


+1 HS
IH8UOFM's picture

I don't like to play Devils Advocate, but JT Barrett is going to prove a lot of people wrong if he is put into a starting/contributing role. Mark my words.

ScarletNGrey01's picture

The bucks have had some great recruiting classes and have a lot of electric offensive weapons AND looks like the defense will be on the rise this season.  HOWEVER ... to lose Braxton with an inexperienced offensive line ... whew ... that could be a tough situation.  No disrespect intended, but Jones and Barrett are far from ready for prime time.  I think with Braxton at the helm the plan is to go roughly 55% passing 45% running, but if he goes out we'd probably be more like 40% passing 60% running, in my purely speculative opinion.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Soulbowler's picture

Too much talent everywhere else. If he goes down they will struggle against 2-3 teams. Not saying they will lose but struggle. Again- QB gets too much praise ...and too much criticism. Barrett will be just fine. And might take the bucks to new heights when it's all said and done. I can see cardale transferring after this year

The fat man leaves no footprints

+1 HS