COLUMBUS – Braxton Miller’s final season in an Ohio State uniform has been a year later and considerably quieter than anyone would have imagined after his first three seasons in scarlet and gray.
The original timeline most people pictured was that maybe he would lead OSU to a national championship last season after being stopped short in 2013 with the same sort of spectacular plays he had produced in his first three seasons.
In those three seasons, he passed for 5,295 yards and 52 touchdowns and rushed for 3,054 yards and 32 touchdowns. No Ohio State quarterback has ever run for more yards.
But two shoulder surgeries in 2014 to repair a torn labrum changed all that. Now instead of leaving Ohio State as a star quarterback, he is going out as a No. 3 receiver, who occasionally lines up at quarterback to run the ball.
Miller has 22 catches for 321 yards and three touchdowns and has rushed for 218 yards this season.
In case anyone has forgotten how dazzling Miller was and how important he has been to Ohio State’s success the last four seasons, OSU coach Urban Meyer has been reminding them all week.
“It’s immense the feelings we all have for him because we all know how average we were, especially on offense our first year. If you don’t have that kid, you start your coaching career here at Ohio State with a .500 or 8-5 or 8-4 record or whatever it is,” Meyer said on Wednesday, referring to OSU’s 12-0 record in his first season as coach in 2012.
“If you don’t get momentum those other great things don’t happen or certainly doesn’t happen in that time frame. Braxton is the ultimate competitor. He just means a lot to us,” he said.
Thursday on his weekly radio show, Meyer said, “I made the comment about Braxton that it is going to be a hard one when you look out there and don’t get to coach him anymore. Braxton is really dear to my heart and our program because of his selflessness.
“You know how many times I’ve had to make sure he was going to class? Zero. You know how many times I’ve had to make sure how he handles himself and how he behaves? Zero. He’s not perfect. Nobody ever said he was but he has done things the right way.”
If the scoreboard at Ohio Stadium shows highlights of Miller’s career on Senior Day before his final home game on Saturday against Michigan State, it’s probably a pretty good bet some of these will be included:
— His scrambling 40-yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 second to play to beat Wisconsin 33-29 in 2011.
— An 81-yard run through Indiana’s defense to score in 2011 and a 67-yard touchdown run against the Hoosiers a year later.
— His 63-yard touchdown pass to Smith to give Ohio State the lead for good in a 17-16 win over Michigan State in 2012.
— A 1-yard touchdown run against Penn State when Miller started forward, stepped back to avoid a tackler, then dived into the end zone. He called this his favorite play earlier this season.
— And, of course, the spin move on a 53-yard touchdown run against Virginia Tech this season.