Last year, Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller entered the college football season as an outside favorite to win the Hesiman trophy. Unfortunately, these dreams were derailed pretty quickly as he suffered a sprained knee in the second game against San Diego State.
Miller would rebound from the injury to compile 2,094 passing yards, 1,068 rushing yards and 36 total TD’s over 12 games played. However, he again suffered an injury – this time to his shoulder – in a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Miller is looking pretty healthy after having shoulder surgery in February, but that doesn’t change the number one priority for Ohio State this season: protect Miller.
“Our quarterback is ready to go. He’s full speed, in the best shape of his life,” head coach Urban Meyer said at the Big Ten media day. “Protecting our quarterback is paramount. It’s concern No. 1. It’s A through F, A through Z, A through X, whatever it is.”
Tight end Jeff Heuerman backed up Meyer’s assertion of how important protecting the QB is by stating the importance of Miller. “How important is it to keep LeBron healthy for the Cavaliers? It’s about the same,” Heuerman said.
The Buckeyes didn’t really see this LeBron effect last season because they played less-talented teams when Miller hurt his knee. Backup Kenny Guiton came in during the first quarter of the San Diego State game, then started against California and Florida A&M. Luckily for OSU, Guiton played excellent and engineered three blowouts while running back Carlos Hyde provided another offensive dimension.
Both Guiton and Hyde graduated, with the latter being a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers. So keeping Miller healthy remains even more imperative, especially with no established backup to come in if he gets hurt again.
So how can Ohio State keep Miller healthy, beyond making sure his offensive line provides good protection. According to Meyer, the solution could lie in doing a few things differently with the game plan.
“His issues are that he sometimes goes above and beyond what his body is going to allow him to do,” Meyer said. “Do we try to slow Braxton down? Absolutely not. We try to protect him, surround him and maybe come up with a good scheme to get the ball out of his hands a little quicker (on passes). The durability issue isn’t because his body wasn’t meant to play college football. It’s because of how hard he plays.”
Miller himself believes that the key will be not making any overly risky plays that could jeopardize his year. “You just have to be smart and not do anything extra to hurt yourself and be out a couple games,” the star QB said.
The 21-year-old comes into the season as a Heisman favorite. So if you’re planning on doing any 2014 Ohio State football betting, keep in mind that OSU features one of college football’s best players. Now, if he can stay healthy, they may feature the nation’s best team as well.