It’s official: Braxton Miller to miss 2014 season

56 Comments

O-H!  UH-OH!!!

Unfortunately for Ohio State and the fans of its football team, their worst fears have been realized as OSU announced today that, as widely expected, starting quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the entire 2014 season.  Miller, the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year reinjured his right(throwing) shoulder during practice Monday, with at least a couple of reports indicating that the he suffered a dislocated shoulder on a throw in which there was no contact.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Braxton and his family,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate injury to a young man who means so much to this program and to Buckeye nation.”

Other than he reinjured the same shoulder, the school declined to acknowledge the specific nature of the injury. They did allow that it was a non-contact play and the injury will require surgery to repair.

There is not timetable as of yet for surgery or a return to football activities.

Former Ohio State All-American wide receiver Joey Galloway, who was at yesterday’s practice, “said the injury to Braxton occurred on a rollout throwing a short pass toward the sideline.”

“He didn’t even get hit,” a source told Pete Thamel of SI.com. “He threw and it’s just a freakish thing. Everyone is scratching their head on how it happened.” Thamel added that Miller suffered a torn labrum, not a dislocation of his shoulder.

The injury didn’t go unnoticed all across college football and by former teammates.  And Las Vegas.

There was some good news, at least for now, amidst the gloom as Miller revealed that he will return to the Buckeyes for the 2015 season.  Miller is a fourth-year senior and has yet to use a redshirt.

He’ll use one this year and then, if he does return — he could change his mind and enter the 2015 NFL draft — he’ll be a fifth-year senior who would be poised to again lead his beloved Buckeyes.

“I love Ohio State and Buckeye nation, and my goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever,” said Miller, who is 26-8 as a starter, including 24-2 the past two seasons, in his statement. “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.”

That’s the future, though. The present is what currently matters most to OSU.

JT Barrett
JT Barrett

With the end of Miller’s season officially finalized, the Buckeyes will turn to, at least initially, J.T. Barrett.  The redshirt freshman had been in a battle throughout spring practice and on into summer camp with sophomore Cardale Jones to be Miller’s backup, only just recently moving into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

Both Barrett and Jones received extensive work during the 15 spring sessions as Miller rehabbed the partially torn labrum he suffered in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, which was subsequently repaired in what at the time was described as minor surgery in late February.  That extra work for the two reserves continued into summer camp as Miller had been limited due to what was described as soreness in his shoulder.

While the pair have received additional reps because of Miller’s issues, it won’t help the game-day inexperience.  Barrett has never thrown a pass at the collegiate level, while Jones has thrown just two.

Despite the lack of on-field experience at this level, Barrett will enter the huddle with a fairly lofty recruiting pedigree and an assertive leadership style.

A four-star member of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class, Barrett was rated as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  Easily the biggest knock on Barrett is his arm strength, or lack thereof.  His offensive coordinator/position coach, however, says the former Texas high schooler more than makes up for lack of a cannon on his shoulder in other facets of the game.

“Extremely cerebral. Very magnetic leader,” Tom Herman said earlier this month of a player who’s turned out to be his new starting quarterback. “I think the kids kind of gravitate towards him.

“We’ve got to work on strengthening his arm. He’s a distant third in terms of Braxton and Cardale in terms of just rearing back and trying to throw it through a wall. But he makes up for it in his anticipation and his accuracy and all that. You don’t have to have a howitzer to be successful in college football. I’m very pleased with his continuing growth.”

Cardale Jones
Cardale Jones

Jones, a three-star member of the Buckeyes’ 2011 recruiting class who delayed his enrollment at OSU for prep school, was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country that year.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, then played sparingly in 2013; in 39 plays from scrimmage last season, Jones threw the ball twice (completing one for three yards) and ran 17 times (for 128 yards and a touchdown).

Meyer didn’t address just who will start the opener against Navy, although it was noted in the release that “[i]t was previously announced by Meyer on Saturday that Barrett, a 6-1, 225-pounder from Wichita Falls, Texas, had moved ahead of Jones for the No. 2 quarterback spot.”  Recently, Barrett has taken the lion’s share of reps with the first-team offense as he separated himself from Jones.

Taking all of that into account, there’s no reason to tap dance around it — losing Miller for the year is a significant blow to the Buckeyes and will certainly have an impact on the Big Ten Race.  It also may very well significantly impact the first year of the College Football Playoff as the Buckeyes, despite the Big Ten title-game loss to Michigan State, were the overwhelming favorites to claim the conference and emerge as the league’s playoff representative.  Miller is one of the most irreplaceable and indispensable players in college football; some would even argue that he’s the most irreplaceable and indispensable, given the unproven running backs in OSU’s stable and the coaching staff having to replace four of its five starting offensive linemen.

Even as it may seem like it in the here and now, the season’s not completely lost for the Buckeyes.  As, just to name a few, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel,  Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Florida State’s Jameis Winston have shown over the past couple of years, redshirt freshmen are perfectly capable of successfully leading their teams in their first seasons as starters.  One of those four (Winston) won a BCS title, while another (Golson) helped lead his team to the BCS title game.  Winston won the Heisman en route to the championship, while Manziel took home his while helping the Aggies win 11 games their first season in the SEC.  Mariota was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2012 as the Ducks won 11 games, including the Fiesta Bowl.

More than likely, the Ducks and Aggies would’ve qualified for the playoffs were that system around in 2012, the former in particular.

Then there’s this: USC’s Matt Leinart (2004), LSU’s Matt Flynn (2007) Alabama’s Greg McElroy (2009), Auburn’s Cam Newton (2010), Alabama’s AJ McCarron (2011) and Winston (2013) all won BCS titles in their first year as starters over the last decade.

Who knows, Barrett could make it three seasons in a row for the second-year freshman/first-year starter phenomenon that’s done nothing but grow over the past handful of years.  And, for now, that’s about all Buckeye Nation can hang their title hopes on.

Well, that and a schedule that features just one team at the moment ranked in the Top 25 — No. 8 Michigan State in East Lansing.  That’s easily OSU’s toughest road game of the year, with other games away from The Horseshoe consisting of against Navy (9-4 in 2013) (in Baltimore), Maryland (7-6), Penn State (7-5) and Minnesota (8-5).  Their home slate features matchups against Virginia Tech (8-5), Kent State (4-8), Cincinnati (9-4), Rutgers (6-7), Illinois (4-8), Indiana (5-7) and Michigan (7-6).

According to FBSchedules.com, Ohio State’s 2014 schedule is tied for fifth-toughest, with Oregon, among the teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 10.  The .569 winning percentage of its opponents top that of defending BCS champion Florida State (.550), Oklahoma (.477) and Alabama (.473).

In other words, it’s not the cakewalk some have perceived to be.  It’s not exactly a football death march either, which means that, depending on how fast Barrett — or Jones — get acclimated, all the gloom and doom currently hanging over the football program could give way to a postseason full of possibilities.  Or it’ll be 2011 all over again in terms of the won/loss ledger.  One of the two.

 

Bronco Mendenhall puts up $500,000 toward new Virginia football facility

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ask any football coach what one of their top requests of their administration is and, outside of perhaps an increase in the staff salary pool, just about every one of them will reply with better facilities.

It seems Bronco Mendenhall is helping out his own cause on that front as the school announced that he and his wife Holly have pledged $500,000 that will go building the Cavaliers’ new football operations building.

“Holly and I are excited to be a part of the process that transforms Virginia football,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “We love developing young people through football and the new Football Operations Center will provide our young men a home where they can develop into exceptional football players, students and leaders.”

“I am very thankful that Bronco and Holly have further demonstrated their commitment to the University of Virginia with this gift,” added Virginia AD Carla Williams.” Bronco’s vision for the impact this facility will have on the football program is inspiring and I hope his and Holly’s gift will motivate others to invest in the future of Virginia student-athletes.”

The gift, the largest ever by a UVA head coach back to the school, is the first public pledge toward the Hoos’ $180 million master plan campaign that will see a complete revitalization of the campus’ athletic facilities. This includes a new football building located next to the team’s indoor practice facility/outdoor fields and will also include a full renovation to the existing McCue Center that the program currently calls home. Construction of the vast majority of the plan is expected to start in 2020.

The half-million dollar gift to the school won’t put a huge damper on Mendenhall’s wallet despite being a very nice gesture for the program. According to the USA Today salary database, the head coach will take home nearly $3.55 million in 2018 and seems firmly tied to the Cavs for the foreseeable future given his whopping $18 million buyout.

Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz challenges Tyreek Hill to race, Kansas City Chiefs star seems up for it

Getty Images
1 Comment

There’s long been a debate in scouting circles about how much track speed can translate into football speed but, if we’re lucky, we might be able to add another data point to the discussion.

On Tuesday, Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz tweeted at Kansas City Chiefs star Tyreek Hill and wondered when the two could race. While both are in the middle of the respective seasons on the gridiron, it seems the two speedsters are at least open to squaring off in the near future to figure out just who might be the fastest man in all of football based on Hill’s response on Thursday.

Now, this isn’t just some crazy college kid challenging one of the NFL’s fastest receivers to a race, there’s enough intrigue here for fans at both levels of football to get excited.

Schwartz, a freshman wideout who has 12 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns with Auburn this year, was named 2018 Gatorade national boys’ track and field athlete of the year coming out of high school and took home a silver in the 100m at the IAAF U20 world championships in July. Hill has been running away from defenders for years now at just about every level of football but was quite the track star of his own back in high school and, briefly, at Oklahoma State.

No details were given on the surface or timing of any potential race but it’s safe to say it could be a close one if the two do indeed lace ’em up. Hill’s best 100m time was 10.19 back in 2014 while Schwartz posted a personal best of 10.09 in June and got his silver medal in Finland at the IAAF world championships with a 10.22.

Michigan State finds ‘Blue M’ painted near Sparty statue ahead of rivalry game, police open investigation

Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s Michigan-Michigan State week in college football which means hijinks are bound to happen around the region between supporters of Big Blue and the Spartans.

Case in point came on Thursday as police opened an investigation into an incident near MSU’s Sparty statue on campus after a bit of vandalism occurred yesterday morning that had many blaming their cross-state rivals. Per the Lansing State Journal: 

Michigan State University Police were called Tuesday just before 4 a.m. to the area of the Sparty statue for a report of vandalism, Capt. Doug Monette said. They found a blue “M” spray painted on the sidewalk near the statue, likely in support of the University of Michigan. Monette said the investigation is open and ongoing.

Yeah, going to go out on a limb there and confirm the ‘blue M’ was the handiwork of somebody who roots for the Wolverines on Saturday.

The story didn’t specify where the spray-painted logo was in relation to the Sparty statue but it couldn’t have been too close because it appears that students typically sit around the statue during rivalry week to protect it from vandalism just like this. Head coach Mark Dantonio was caught delivering pizzas to those watching over the statue by Big Ten Network just hours before the reported spray painting took place as luck would have it.

Next year it appears as though Michigan State will have to expand their perimeter of student onlookers so as to discourage such hijinks in the future after this latest incident in East Lansing.

LSU unveils new uniform to pay respect to 1918 season, including new color-shifting helmet

Getty Images
5 Comments

No. 5 LSU hosts No. 22 Mississippi State this weekend in Death Valley for a big game within the SEC West that also holds some significant national implications as well. This contest between the Tigers and Bulldogs has been an underrated game the past few years and you can bet the night game atmosphere on Saturday will only add to that.

LSU is ramping things up a bit more however with a surprising new uniform for the game however. The new look, unveiled on Twitter Thursday afternoon, is designed to pay homage to the 1918 “Silent Season” at the school where students and players left campus to fight in World War I instead of clashing on the gridiron.

The video below details everything that goes into the all-white uniform thanks to a pretty epic voice over that is sure to fire up Tigers fans about the clean, yet sharp look the team will take the field in. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the entire thing is the helmet, which is called “color-shifting” from gold to purple depending on how you look at it in the lights — similar to a set of Mardi Gras beads.

LSU generally has a pretty slick set of uniforms when they use their home whites but this is a nice step up while also doubling as a good history lesson for those not too familiar with the school’s past. We’ll have to see just how good that helmet looks under the lights in Death Valley but the early returns are pretty good based on what we’ve seen so far in the video above.