Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller announced Thursday, amid plenty of speculation and rampant conjecture, he will finish his college football career a Buckeye. Despite missing all of 2014 with a right shoulder injury, and the stellar play of fill-ins J.T. Barrett and later, Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller should not be the new generation Wally Pipp.
Or, if you prefer a more recent (albeit fictional) analogy: Don’t expect Urban Meyer to announce his departure for Los Angeles — and he’s taking Barrett and Jones with him! — in a surprise press conference. Braxton Miller isn’t Cap Rooney, and neither Barrett nor Jones are Steamin’ Willie Beamon.
Braxton Miller did nothing to lose his job as starting quarterback. Few dual-threat playmakers in college football are as exciting or fit their team’s offense quite as nicely as Miller, who was a Heisman favorite a year ago at this time. Plays like the below are a reminder why.
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) July 9, 2015
But then, a starter losing his job because of injury isn’t necessarily an indictment of that player. The aforementioned Wally Pipp was an outstanding hitter for the New York Yankees before Lou Gehrig usurped first base while Pipp nursed a headache. However, good as Barrett and Jones were — and both were outstanding — neither was demonstrably better than Miller.
Sure, Jones led Ohio State on arguably the most impressive three-game run of any team in college football history between its Big Ten Championship Game blasting of Wisconsin, offensive deconstruction of the vaunted Alabama defense and dominant title-game performance against Oregon. Cardale Jones has a frame and style reminiscent that of Cam Newton — the same Cam Newton Urban Meyer did not get to showcase because of the quarterback’s dismissal.
Whether he plays this season or not, Jones is destined for the NFL because of those Newton-like qualities. But was he better than Braxton Miller? No.
J.T. Barrett led Ohio State through the regular season, improving each week and becoming a Heisman candidate in his own right. As a redshirt freshman, he threw 34 touchdown passes and ran for another 11. He was just shy of breaking into the illustrious 2,000-1,000 Club with 938 yards on the ground. And he accomplished all that as a redshirt freshman.
Of course, as a youngster, Barrett has time remaining in the program beyond 2015. He’ll have plenty of time to add to his already-impressive statistics and perhaps make a run at the Heisman. But the interim belongs to Braxton Miller — and J.T. Barrett’s own father agrees.
Meyer is in a unique position with so much proven quarterback talent on his roster, but the qualifier “proven” is key. There may be other college football teams with three stars sharing reps in practice, but because one is an embedded starter, we’re not proven to the ability of the rest. Sixty minutes on Saturday is a fraction of the time these athletes log, and there’s a reason Braxton Miller was a clear-cut No. 1 before his shoulder injury.
That’s certainly no slight on Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett; we’ve seen what both can do, just as we witnessed the outstanding play of Kenny Guiton for a stretch in 2013. But we also know what Miller can do, and he’s done so the longest and the most consistently of all the quarterbacks on Ohio State’s depth chart.
With a clean bill of health and reaffirmed commitment to Ohio State, Braxton Miller is the clear choice to quarterback Ohio State in defense of its national championship.