For the better part of the last three seasons, Braxton Miller has been the face of Ohio State football and the crux of the Urban Meyer era.
In his senior year, the star quarterback was supposed to guide the No. 5-ranked Buckeyes on a redemption-fueled quest for championships. He was supposed to be a Heisman frontrunner.
A season-ending shoulder injury (torn labrum) thwarted rosy picture Monday afternoon. And when it happened, it made Meyer's stomach turn.
"It was devastating," he said. "It was a bad deal."
Because the Buckeyes lost arguably their most valuable player and it stung even more considering a newfound cache of targets he was supposed to throw to this fall. The combination was supposed to be a fully-functioning display of Meyer's vaunted spread offense.
"I haven't had any weapons like that since I was in high school," Miller said in February. Which is why, for the last six months, Miller gushed about the influx of skill players to Ohio State's offense.
Players like Dontre Wilson, Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Jeff Heuerman, Corey Smith, Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and more offered Miller a surplus of options he hasn't had in the passing game.
That kind of talent still exists on the team's roster with or without Miller behind center.
"We’ve got a lot more playmakers this year that can make plays with the ball than we have in years past, we probably got three, four, five more playmakers than we did in years past coming into this season," Heuerman said. "We’re gonna rely on some of them to make a lot of plays."
The difference, of course, is who's throwing the football to them. Charged with filling the massive and probably oversized shoes of Miller is redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who Meyer called a "meticulous" distributor compared to his more dynamic counterpart. He's not Miller, and it seems hard to imagine Ohio State will ask him to be.
"We’re gonna have to account for some of the things we’re not gonna have with Braxton not out there. It’s no secret or anything, he’s probably one of the most explosive players to ever play this game," Heuerman said. "We’re not naive to that and we’re gonna have to make up some ground."
It's why Barrett can be asked to do less with more.
"A quarterback's an important cog, but that's exactly what it is: it's a cog. It's not the team," Meyer said.
Don't take that the wrong way, though. The Buckeyes will miss Miller's unusual athleticism and he did things on the field that few across the country can. Ohio State is not better off without him. Far from it. The Buckeyes, however, can still win without him.
"There's 100 yards of offense that has to be made up somewhere. Probably more than that, but just strictly with his skill level, you've got 100 yards of offense that we find whether it's rushing, passing, extending plays and I think I see some excitement that there's 100 more yards out there for someone to have," Meyer said.
"There was a time two years ago when Braxton right and Braxton left was our best way of getting a first down. When Jordan Hall got hurt, Carlos (Hyde) was still 240-some pounds and not what we're looking for. And the offensive line was just maturing. Jeff Heuerman hadn't become a target yet. Devin (Smith) was inconsistent, Philly was Philly and Evan wasn't what he is now."
After time for Meyer to assemble a cast of players that perhaps better suit his style of play, Ohio State can mitigate the loss of Miller.
"There's been some nice growth over the other positions so I'm anticipating a much different offense from certainly what you saw two years ago and a little bit more evenly spaced out than it was last year."