OSU’s Miller still in the mix during his transition

Marla Ridenour
Akron Beacon Journal

Columbus, Ohio — Braxton Miller was trailed by media from the minute he stepped through the door onto the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

The cluster of television cameras and voice recorders on his table equaled the number surrounding Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, battling to be the starting quarterback for defending national champion Ohio State.

Miller is no longer the third man in that competition, electing to move to wide receiver/H-back last month. But if the fifth-year senior worried about losing his status with his teammates or the spotlight he enjoyed as a two-time Big Ten MVP fading, that didn’t seem to be the case.

At least at media day.

“This seems like a quarterback or something, there’s still a lot of attention on me,” Miller said.

It marked the first time Miller had spoken to the majority of Ohio media since last season, save for three minutes before he left for the ESPYs last month.

Miller told Joey Galloway in a recent interview for “SportsCenter” he hopes to get back to quarterback after three or four games. That scenario seems far-fetched, especially when Miller is now playing the position that’s projected as his best fit in the NFL.

Ohio State also has two H-backs, Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, and receiver Corey Smith (Buchtel) among the four players suspended for the Sept. 7 opener at Virginia Tech. If the game against the Hokies proves to be Miller’s coming-out party, there may be no turning back.

Especially since Miller still has concerns about the torn labrum in his right shoulder that ended his season 10 days before the 2014 opener and required two surgeries to repair.

“I just felt like I wasn’t ready to play quarterback fully,” Miller said. “The process is so long playing quarterback with a torn labrum. I’m 100 percent. But 100 percent throwing the ball, it’s not getting the full distance where I need to be.”

If Miller was anxious about surviving his first hit, he emerged from a scrimmage unscathed.

“I went up for a ball, J.T. scrambled and the guys hit me in my legs and I came down on my upper body. It was pretty good,” Miller said. “I got the ball in the backfield and got tackled.

“I’m blessed. Some people don’t come back from certain types of surgeries. I came back from the second one on my shoulder. Fortunately God blessed me with the ability I can play any position on the field.”

Miller still faces huge challenges. After his first practice, Jones said Miller looked like it was his first day at receiver.

“The first time? Right. Ask him again. Ask Von Bell, actually,” Miller said.

Receivers coach Zach Smith said in the offseason Miller and Von Bell, a junior safety, would work together in one-on-one drills.

“It’s not like this is his first day at wideout,” Smith said. “He’s like anyone who’s never done it before. It doesn’t come natural to him, he’s not great at it yet, but he has the skill set and desire and understanding so he will be.

“A guy like Braxton is going from being a horizontal athlete to a vertical-playing athlete. He’s basically got to completely re-learn how he plays as an athlete.”

There are physical challenges as well. Miller said the Buckeyes wear Zephyr sports trackers to measure the distances they run. He said he’s hit 4 miles a day at receiver, while he barely went a mile as a quarterback.

“It’s going good, other than my legs being so sore,” Miller said.

“He went through some muscle tightness,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s fine. But we’re being cautious. This is a big week for him, so we 1/8slowly3/8 introduced him. He did very well, and I’m anxious, as he is, to get going and get a starting spot.”

Despite such challenges, Miller sounds like he’s committed. He said he also uses stretch bands to strengthen his wrists and fingertips.

“Small things,” he said.

From his tone, Miller sounded like he is having fun.

“It felt like when I was growing up just playing all the different positions. Just enjoying football,” said the Dayton native.

Miller said his go-to teammate in the receiver room is Michael Thomas, nephew of former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson.

“My man Mike Thomas helped me a lot in the offseason, late at night,” Miller said.

Considering that the 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate’s season ended in an August practice a year ago, Miller keeps his goals simple and his sights set on the present, not a possible role on another national championship team.

“I just pray every morning and every night I just have a healthy season and I fulfill my dream for my future, for my son and for my family,” Miller said. “That’s it.”