The Ohio State Buckeyes were considered the favorites to win a Big Ten championship this season prior to quarterback Braxton Miller re-injuring his throwing shoulder.
Despite the injury, some coaches around the nation feel the Buckeyes will be just as dangerous without Miller in the lineup.
“Some offenses can survive it fine if there’s a great supporting cast,” an unnamed coach from the West Coast told CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler. “I don’t think Miller is a great player. Good but not great.”
The sentiment within the Big Ten Conference may not have echoed the previous statement, but Michigan’s Brady Hoke made it pretty clear how the team from Ohio should proceed.
“Never change your expectations,” Hoke said. “Next man must step up.”
Hoke may have felt “terrible” for Miller, but he also knows the Buckeyes are still talented on offense and redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett can lead Ohio State to a Big Ten title. The Buckeyes may not operate the same way without Miller leading the offense, but the team can adjust the scheme to take advantage of Barrett’s talents as a quarterback.
“In most cases you would have to change some strategy,” another unnamed coach stated.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is considering upping the tempo of the offense. The faster the Buckeyes operate, the better Barrett can be starting in Miller’s stead.
“Style of play [has to change] — one example is Oregon when they lost [Dennis] Dixon and didn’t have that type behind him,” another coach said.
Of course, the Buckeyes would have been better with Miller in the lineup. He was a legitimate Heisman hopeful. Over the pass three seasons, Miller threw for 5,292 yards, ran for 3,054 yards and contributed 83 total touchdowns.
But Miller had his faults too. Miller was considered a “very streaky” passer. The Buckeyes’ previous backup quarterback, Kenny Guiton, was far more efficient with the football when he filled in for an injured Miller.
Meyer has compared Barrett’s play to Guiton’s.
The benefit for Ohio State is the injury happened so early in the process. Barrett has received the bulk of first-team repetitions during fall camp. Barrett has yet to be officially named the Buckeyes’ starter to open the season, but he’ll be ready for Navy Aug. 30.
And Barrett enters the season knowing expectations won’t change in Columbus just because Miller is injured and out for the season.