If you were expecting a sullen and despondent Urban Meyer in the wake of the Braxton Miller injury, you will be sorely disappointed.
Wednesday morning, the Ohio State head coach, during an interview on the Mike & Mike Show, made his first public comments since yesterday’s announcement. While acknowledging “your gut starts to hurt” when ” a member of your family [goes] down,” Meyer was optimistic about the future of his squad, which, prior to Miller’s season-ending injury, was viewed by many as the Big Ten favorite and potential playoff qualifier.
“I think we’re going to be a very good team,” the coach said in quotes transcribed by the Columbus Dispatch. “Has my thought changed? Not at all. …
“Our guys have responded [positively to the injury news].”
Meyer also praised Miller for his attitude since the injury, which has seemed to have an impact — a positive one — on the entire team.
“The best thing is Braxton’s reaction,” Meyer said. “Braxton has a big smile on his face, is out at practice, is talking to our quarterbacks. I’m telling you, he’s a grown man. That’s credit to him, his family and his high-school coach, Jay Minton.”
The quarterback who’ll likely lean on Miller, the quasi-coach, the most is T.J. Barrett. The redshirt freshman has never played a down at the collegiate level let alone attempted a pass. He’s expected to get the start, at least in the opener against Navy, ahead of Cardale Jones.
Miller will be looked upon to provide a veteran presence for Barrett, one who can be both a mentor and a coach all in the same package. Meyer’s going to do his part as well, scaling back the offense and tailoring it to Barrett’s skillset.
“We’re not at this point going to ask him to throw that post corner on the field a 35-yard route on a seven-step drop,” Meyer said as an example of tailoring the offense for Barrett. “He’s not made for that yet.”
The Dispatch pointed out that “the offense under Barrett is likely to resemble what it looked like when Kenny Guiton took over when Miller was injured early last year.”
Miller suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of the Week 2 win over San Diego State and was replaced for the remainder of that game as well as the next two by Guiton. Guiton totaled 13 touchdowns — 12 passing — in those three games before Miller returned for the win over Wisconsin.
The difference between Barrett and Guiton? Guiton was a senior with at least some playing experience before being tossed into the fray. Neither Barrett nor OSU has that luxury this time around, with Barrett’s acclimation to the game at this level likely going a long way in determining whether or not, as Meyer stated, the Buckeyes are a very good team at season’s end.