Ohio State senior quarterback Braxton Miller reinjured his right (throwing) shoulder in practice yesterday, sources told The Dispatch, an injury that could cause him to miss the upcoming season and put a new spin on it for the Buckeyes, the fifth-ranked team in the Associated Press preseason poll.
Neither a team spokesman nor coach Urban Meyer would confirm the news, but sources said that Miller, who had been considered a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy, suffered the injury while throwing a routine pass. He was not hit, having been off-limits from contact since off-season shoulder surgery.
It likely means redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett will start when the Buckeyes open the season against Navy on Aug.30 in Baltimore. Barrett moved ahead of sophomore Cardale Jones last week in the competition to back up Miller, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
Sources said last night that a quick return for Miller is not likely. Miller could be facing another surgical procedure, though that might not be decided for a couple of days.
Ohio State practiced twice yesterday, with Miller hurt during the second session. Before the second practice, Herman was asked about the progress of Barrett, the first quarterback fully recruited to Ohio State by Herman and Meyer as part of the 2013 class.
“The offense moves better when he’s in there,” Herman said. Statistical comparisons and making right reads to the contrary, “The offense moves more frequently when J.T. is the quarterback. That’s the sign of a good one.”
The past two seasons, Ohio State has been able to rely on backup Kenny Guiton, who’s now in the Arena Football League.
As for the confidence of going with a backup quarterback this season, Herman said it’s “good. I wouldn’t say it’s where it was the previous two years, but close. By no stretch of the imagination are we where we were at that position with Kenny Guiton, arguably the best backup in college football the last two years.
“But I’m not worried. Both those guys are (capable enough) to where you can win games with them right now.”
Miller, winner of the past two Silver Football awards as the Big Ten MVP as decided by league coaches, missed significant playing time in his first three seasons, including almost three full games last season after suffering a knee sprain. He sat out spring practice after first injuring the shoulder in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, a loss to Clemson.
Miller also was hurt in 2012 against Purdue at Ohio Stadium. He was taken to a hospital for further evaluation while Guiton led the comeback and overtime victory over the Boilermakers. Yet Miller returned to practice the next week seemingly none the worse for the wear.
Still, Ohio State won its first 24 games in two seasons under Meyer. The Buckeyes were favored in the Big Ten this season and seen as a contender for the first four-team College Football Playoff.
At midday yesterday, Miller and Herman talked with the media after the first practice. Though Miller had been throwing a football since July 1 and had been throwing with some gusto during limited sessions in camp, he had been held out of many of the team drills as a precaution.
“They’re just missing my voice out there,” Miller had said. “They still hear me but I’m not calling the plays. I’m still out there coaching, leading the guys, but I’m not taking all the reps and throwing right now because I just want to be smart about it, not take too many, and get my shoulder (dinged).”
The silver lining to his missing practice time was Herman and Meyer were able to increase to the workload of Barrett and Jones.
“It’s been great for them,” Herman said. “And really — you never want to not throw as a quarterback, I get that, but it’s been good for Braxton, too, to be able to step back.”
Now, the step back might be for the full season.