Braxton Miller is headed toward surgery again after suffering the second injury to his right shoulder in eight months, Ohio State confirmed yesterday. But even though the quarterback must sit out the 2014 season, he has vowed to return in 2015.
“I love Ohio State and Buckeye Nation, and my goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever,” Miller said in a statement from the school. “I am on course to graduate in December and I want to attend graduate school, and then return to lead the Buckeyes next season.
“In the meantime, I want to give all the support I can to my coaches and teammates as they chase a championship this season.”
Sources believed he suffered a dislocation of the shoulder, but that wasn’t confirmed by Ohio State. The sources also said Miller is expected to have the surgery done next week in Pensacola, Fla., by renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who moved to No. 2 in the past week ahead of Cardale Jones, now appears to be the No. 1 quarterback as Ohio State heads toward the season opener against Navy on Aug. 30 in Baltimore. Miller is a senior, but because he never took a redshirt season, he is eligible to return.
But the news of the injury, which occurred during practice on Monday, changed the national perception for the Buckeyes, ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press preseason poll and a contender for the first four-team College Football Playoff.
“Obviously, devastating news for Ohio State,” said Kirk Herbstreit, an analyst for ESPN/ABC and a former Ohio State quarterback. “I think you could argue Braxton Miller is as important to his team as any player in the sport of college football in 2014.
“To go from Braxton Miller to a couple of quarterbacks who have hardly any experience, I think it opens up the conference and all of a sudden, in my opinion, goes from Ohio State being favored to win the Big Ten to, just overnight, I think Michigan State is the team to beat.”
Miller suffered the first injury to his right shoulder during the Orange Bowl, a loss to Clemson, on Jan. 3. It was given time to heal, but it was decided surgery was needed, which was performed on Feb. 20.
Miller had stayed out of contact during spring practice, and he had been restricted in his activity, especially his passing, during preseason camp the past two weeks. Monday afternoon was expected to be his first extensive session, but he was injured early while throwing a routine pass, with no contact by the defense.
Miller was unavailable for comment to the media, but his friend, former Ohio State backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, visited the Woody Hayes Athletic Center yesterday and saw him.
“I had to make sure I could be there for him, make sure he was OK with everything, but he seemed like he was in good spirits,” Guiton said. “Anybody who is going through this kind of situation is going to be down, but like I said, he seemed like he was in pretty good spirits considering.
“You’ve got to keep your head up and recover as fast as you can, and come back even better than what you were.”
Miller said that is his plan. Still, it was a stunning blow not only for him but for his teammates and coaches, such as Urban Meyer, who thought Miller was being brought along this preseason in a careful way.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Braxton and his family,” Meyer said. “This is an unfortunate injury to a young man who means so much to this program.”
Elliott cleared to play
The news wasn’t all bad yesterday. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott was medically cleared after having surgery on his left wrist nine days ago.
Elliott suffered a broken bone in his wrist during practice on Aug. 8 and had surgery, in which a pin was inserted. Elliott is the front-runner to replace Carlos Hyde as the starter, though Rod Smith, Curtis Samuel and Bri’onte Dunn are pushing him. Elliott ran for 262 yards and averaged 8.7 yards per carry last year, though most of that yardage came against overmatched Florida A&M.