Even after Miller’s injury, the Buckeyes are still national title contenders

Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T Barrett at practice earlier this month. (AP Photo)

Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T Barrett at practice earlier this month. (AP Photo)

Yesterday it was announced that senior quarterback Braxton Miller is out for the season after re-injuring his right (throwing) shoulder during seven-on-seven drills in practice on Monday.

Entering what should have been his senior season, the two-time winner of the Silver Football, Chicago Tribune’s Most Valuable Player, as well as twice winning the Big Ten’s Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year and the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year awards, Miller was on the short list for Heisman Trophy candidates this summer.

The injury first popped up against Clemson in the Orange Bowl, though he played through it. He was later diagnosed with a partially torn labrum and had surgery last February. Miller was held out of spring practice and was limited in what he could do during fall camp.

On Tuesday an MRI was taken on Miller’s shoulder. He will now have another surgery for the torn labrum, this time performed by Dr. James Andrews, a well-known orthopedic surgeon who’s had his share of high-profile athletes from a wide array of sports.

Miller had this to say on Tuesday:

I love Ohio State and Buckeye nation, and my goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever. 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.”

Since Miller is in his fourth year and has never redshirted, he can do so this season and doesn’t need a medical waiver from the NCAA to play in 2015.

With the news, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett will get the starting nod against Navy on Aug. 30. Barrett, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound four-star recruit by 247Sports.com coming out of Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, was the third-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation by 247Sports and the 13th-best prospect out of the state of Texas.

At one point during his recruitment process, Barrett was the No. 1-ranked dual-threat QB in the nation. But in week 5 of his senior season on Oct. 5, 2012, Barrett tore is ACL in Rider’s 44-17 win over Brewer and missed the rest of the season.

Only once since then has Barrett has suited up for a “live game,” and that was last April for Ohio State’s Spring Game where he was 17-of-33 passing for 151 yards. Barrett also rushed for 21 yards on six attempts.

Since the news of Miller’s injury, most so-called college football “experts” have moved Ohio State down several pegs, put Michigan State as certain Big Ten champions, and Las Vegas has increased the odds of the Buckeyes winning a national championship this season from 12-to-1 to 50-to 1.

And yet there hasn’t been one game played this season.

Amazing.

The thing is, no one knows how Barrett will fare at quarterback. And you know what, the last two Heisman Trophy winners were redshirt freshman quarterbacks who had never taken a snap in college, either.

Last season, Jameis Winston won the Heisman after finishing with 4,057 passing yards and 40 touchdowns, which set an ACC record and a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision freshman record. He led his team to an undefeated 14–0 record, winning the ACC championship and the BCS National Championship Game.

Coming out of Hueytown High School in Alabama, Winston was a four-star recruit and the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation.

After sitting out his first year in Tallahassee with senior EJ Manuel starting at quarterback for the Seminoles, Winston was anointed the starter early on even though sophomore Jacob Coker performed well in preseason camp.

In his first game against Pittsburgh on Sept 2, 2013, Winston completed 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in the 41-13 blowout win at Heinz Field.

From there, Winston played quite well, throwing for 300 or more yards six times and his 66.9 percent completion rate was stellar.

For the class of 2011, there was quarterback from Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, that stood six-feet tall and weighed 195 pounds. He was listed as the ninth-best dual-threat QB and the 38th-best prospect from the Lone Star State.

But Manziel came out of nowhere after battling two others in preseason camp to win the starting job for Texas A&M.

SBNation writer Bill Connelly had this to say in his 2012 preview for the Aggies:

Is there a great quarterback on the A&M roster? It’s probably doubtful for 2012, but signs are at least somewhat encouraging.

In August of 2012, first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin had a quarterback battle on his hands after Ryan Tannehill had exhausted his eligibility. The only one with any experience on the roster was sophomore Jameill Showers. But Manziel quickly ascended to the top of the depth chart by going 18-of-22 passing in his first scrimmage.

In Manziel’s first game against Florida, he was 23-of-30 passing for 173 yards with zero touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 60 yards on 17 carries and a score in the 20-17 loss to the Gators.

Not exactly impressive stats.

After two games against inferior opponents, Texas A&M took on Arkansas at Kyle Field in College Station. That’s when Manziel exploded onto the national scene after throwing for a school-record 453 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Aggies to a 58-10 win. He added 104 yards rushing to also break the school and SEC records for yards of total offense with 557.

His best game might have been on Nov. 10, 2012, when Texas A&M upset No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, 29-24, as Manziel accounted for 345 of A&M’s 418 yards of offense, including two passing touchdowns.

But the bottom line is, the coaching staff and the fan bases for both Florida State and Texas A&M didn’t know what to expect. So all of this “doom and gloom” the national media is perpetrating is nonsense. It’s possible that J.T. Barrett can be just as good as Winston and Manziel.

We just have to what and see.

So get off the ledge, Buckeye fan. The Scarlet & Gray are still contenders. Ohio State has too much talent not to be.

And there just might be a quarterback battle next season.