The Ohio State players’ immediate reaction to Braxton Miller’s injury was understandable.
“You automatically go into panic mode,” senior linebacker Curtis Grant said. “That’s the human element. You just go into panic mode.”
The Buckeyes had just seen the Big Ten’s two-time most valuable player suffer a season-ending shoulder injury on a routine pass in practice on Monday. They felt for their teammate. They wondered what this might mean for their promising season.
But the initial shock about the injury has given way to resolve. If expectations for the Buckeyes’ season are lower among outsiders, they certainly are not within the program.
By Tuesday, Grant said, players had come to terms with Miller’s injury. If anything, it has added to their determination.
“Braxton is a true brother to me,” senior cornerback Doran Grant. “The class of 2011 is a very tight-knit group. It hit me pretty hard. But we have to step it up.”
Coach Urban Meyer didn’t see the injury occur.
“It was devastating,” Meyer said. “I didn’t see exactly what happened, because I thought someone hit him. I went berserk. Then they said that no one had hit him.”
Meyer spoke to the team on Tuesday after it was confirmed that Miller had suffered a torn labrum.
“Coach came in and talked to us about when a guy drops his rifle, we have to pick it up and move forward,” Curtis Grant said.
Miller has been the most important player in Meyer’s first two seasons at Ohio State. His absence will reveal just how effective Meyer’s concerted efforts have been to establish the culture he wants. He has instilled leadership training designed to respond to situations like this.
“It’s a huge test,” Meyer said. “It’s what you prepare for.”
Curtis Grant said the culture, which is based on accountability and competitive excellence, is strong.
“Everybody’s buying in to what coach Meyer is selling,” he said. “You’ll really get left behind if you’re not paying attention, because everybody is coming in working.
“Even the freshman class came in and stepped their game up really quick. It’s the fastest I’ve seen freshmen adapt” to the college level.
Meyer beamed after practice yesterday morning on the last of two-a-days. He said it might have been the best practice since he arrived nearly three years ago.
“There was,” Doran Grant said, “a lot of energy, a lot of competitiveness.”
There will no doubt be bumps in the road as the Buckeyes turn to redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. But it is clear that self-pity will not be among the issues.
“I still like our team,” Meyer said. “After today’s practice, I really, really like our team.”
The Buckeyes aren’t concerned about those who doubt whether Ohio State can be an elite team without Miller.
“That’s cool on their part,” Curtis Grant said. “We can show you better than we can tell you.”