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What a Difference a Year Makes for Ohio State's Braxton Miller

Published by Bleacher Report on Tue, 18 Aug 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio The mood around Ohio State's Woody Hayes Athletic Center was somber, far from the optimism that can typically be found in Columbus two weeks prior to the start of a season.Billboards went up around town, expressing support. Players used interviews as therapy sessions, often falling short of finding a silver lining. Urban Meyer described himself as having gone "berserk."To say the torn labrum in Braxton Miller's throwing shoulder, suffered one year ago Tuesday, shook the Buckeyes program to its core might be considered dramatic.It also wouldn't necessarily be inaccurate.And if anything, it might be an understatement.One year later, Ohio State finds itself preparing to defend its national championship as J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones compete to be the Buckeyes starting quarterback. It took stellar efforts from both players to make up for Miller's absenceand then someleading to a quarterback battle unlike any other in college football.Miller, meanwhile, kept good on his promise to return to OSU for a fifth year. But after the life-altering 365 days that followed last August's injury, he now seems more like a rookie than one of the oldest players inside the Buckeyes locker room.That's because with his shoulder injury having yet to have fully healed and Barrett and Jones having each proved themselves as qualified signal-callers, Miller is no longer a quarterback, having made the move to the wide receiver/H-back position."I just felt like I wasn't ready to play quarterback fully," Miller said of his decision to switch spots on the field. "I'm fortunate enough that God blessed me that I can play any position on the field."When Miller first announced his position switch a month ago, it was lauded by teammates, coaches and even NFL analysts who saw the move as the best option for his long-term NFL future. Having accumulated 3,054 rushing yards and 32 rushing touchdowns in three seasons as a quarterback with his joystick-like ability in the open field, Miller seemed like a natural fit as an H-back, the same position Percy Harvin excelled in at Florida while playing under Meyer.But with one week of camp already in the books, the transition hasn't been as seamless as originally thought. The former quarterback has experienced muscle tightnesssomething Meyer chalked up to the expanded running in his practice planand could be seen having trouble catching the ball during Ohio State's first practice."I run four miles a day," Miller said of his new practice regime. "I barely ran a mile playing quarterback."But while Miller is admittedly still adjusting to his new responsibilities, his potential is apparent.While only the first four periods of two Ohio State practices have been open to the media thus far, one exchange during Miller's media day interview offered a glimpse into his upside. After Jones stated that Miller's first day as a wide receiver looked just like thathis first day as a wide receiverMiller took exception to his former stablemate's message."Ask him again," Miller said. "Ask Vonn Bell."The implication, of course, was that Miller had burnt the Buckeyes safety for a deep touchdown in practice. That would obviously be a promising development in his development as a wideout, as was one sight in particular at the Buckeyes open practice last Friday.Having shifted into the backfield, the 6'2", 215-pound Miller found himself prepared to play the role of running back in a speed-option set with the 6'5", 250-pound Jones. That particular play didn't amount to much, but it allowed imaginations to run wild with the versatility that now exists in the Ohio State offense."It's just like playing a video game," Miller said. "They just put anybody anywhere."But while the possibilities at his new position appear endless, Miller is still getting used to it nonetheless. He insists his goals remain the same"Whatever I do on the field, I just want to be the best at it," he sayswhile also stating that he'll remain a prominent voice in his senior season."I still see myself in the role of leadership," Miller said. "I've still got my voice in the huddle, too, as well as the starting quarterback."Just who that starting quarterback will be remains to be seen, with Meyer insisting he won't reveal his choice ahead of the Buckeyes' Sept. 7 opener with Virginia Tech. For Miller, however, it doesn't matter whether it will be Barrett or Jones, as he remains focused on a return to the field now more than a year in the making.In that one year, so much in Columbus has changed.But as Miller was quick to remind, so much may also remain the same."There's always going to be two quarterbacks on the field," Miller said of his team's ongoing quarterback battle. "I know that."Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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