Don't sleep on Braxton Miller in Ohio State QB race


Can we finally stop talking about the possibility of Braxton Miller transferring from Ohio State?

OK, probably not entirely. Even Urban Meyer, in the midst of saying on Friday that he was confident Miller would stick around and play for the Buckeyes this fall, qualified that by adding he "didn't want to look like a clown" if the quarterback suddenly changed his mind this summer and exercised his graduate transfer option.

But program insiders have always felt relatively certain that Miller wasn't going to leave Columbus. And while nothing is set in stone until the Buckeyes open at Virginia Tech on Labor Day night, we're already almost in June and any transfer would leave very little time for Miller to learn a new system.

So let's say we're 99-percent sure that Miller suits up again for Ohio State in 2015. Are we sure that he won't be the Buckeyes' starting quarterback, too?

It has been pretty easy for people just to assumeCardale Jones would keep the job after leading Ohio State to a national title and dazzling in his three starts. Or to wonder if J.T. Barrett, who was so good in the regular season before breaking his ankle, would rise back to the top.

Miller has faced the most doubters, including those who thought he should switch positions for the good of the team (and for the good of his NFL future). But let's not forget just how great Miller was before he tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder, and let's not underestimate his chances of getting back to that level.

He was the 2012 and 2013 Big Ten offensive player of the year, after all. And though the Buckeyes' offense went to a new level in 2014 behind Barrett and Jones, much of that can be attributed to the improved weapons around the quarterback. Miller had Carlos Hyde to help him in the backfield, but the Ohio State receiving corps didn't really take off until last season. Sure, maybe Barrett with his accurate arm and Jones with his howitzer helped those wideouts reach their potential, but Miller never really had the chance to work with such a deep and established supporting cast around him. Yet he still put up monstrous numbers -- and led the Buckeyes to two straight undefeated regular seasons. What could he do with a chance to spread the ball around to Jalin Marshall, Michael Thomas, Dontre Wilson, Corey Smith and Noah Brown? Doesn't he deserve a chance to show it?

The key issue with Miller, of course, is his health. Meyer said Miller has progressed to being able to throw the ball 35 yards in his shoulder rehab and has good zip on his throws. The hope is that he'll be at full strength by fall camp, but shoulder injuries are notoriously unpredictable. Miller has not taken a live rep in almost a full year, though Meyer said the senior is "in the best shape of his life."

Meyer also said Friday that there hasn't been any talk about moving Miller to another position. Maybe Miller becomes the slash kind of player, able to line up at quarterback and move around to cause defenses fits. I still think that's the best use for him, and that splitting reps with Jones is the way to go.

Still, a healthy Miller would be hard to ignore in the forthcoming August position battle. Barrett may have broken records, and Jones is the flavor of the month. But Miller has a longer track record than either of them and will fight like crazy to avoid getting Wally Pipped.

Let the best man win. But we'd all be crazy -- and dismissive of his illustrious past -- to count Braxton Miller out of the race.