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COLUMBUS — Ohio State spanned 12 states to nab another one of the nation’s highest-ranked recruiting classes this week.
But coach Urban Meyer’s best — and most important — recent sales pitch came right on campus.
It was to Braxton Miller, the two-time Big Ten MVP who chose to bypass the NFL draft for a final season at OSU.
"I told him my opinion that he could become a very high draft pick if he continues to improve, and he said, ‘That's what I thought,’" Meyer said, recalling their conversation after the Buckeyes’ loss in the Orange Bowl. "Never at one time did he say, ‘What should I do?’ because I wouldn't tell him. That's his [family’s] business. But I gave my opinion as far as how much more he could grow as a quarterback."
Speaking for the first time since the decision, Meyer admitted he worried Miller would feel the pull of the NFL. Running backs coach Stan Drayton went so far as to call the possibility "devastating." An early exit by Miller would have meant an early crash course for one of the Buckeyes’ three remaining scholarship quarterbacks — sophomore Cardale Jones, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, and incoming freshman Stephen Collier.
In the end, though, the worry may have been for naught. While Miller dropped hints he wanted to make the jump, he was projected as a mid-round selection in need of significant polish as a passer.
"I knew the advice that he was being given from all the different sources were pointing to him coming back for his senior year," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "I don't know that I ever swallowed the fact that it was a real possibility."
He added: "If in our heart we thought it was in his best interest to declare early, we would have
told him and supported him. We gave him our honest opinion, and we said we felt it was important for him to come back."
HERMAN’S ODYSSEY: When Herman visited four-star offensive lineman Demetrius Knox in Fort Worth last week, he admittedly had the guilt card ready to play if necessary.
As in, "Do you realize what I’ve been through to see you?"
While driving to the airport in Atlanta to catch a flight to Texas, Herman became one of the thousands trapped in the city’s post-apocalyptic, post-two-inches-of-snow highway gridlock. He spent 19 hours stuck in his car, then, finally, abandoned the rental for the final leg of the journey.
As he chronicled on Twitter at the time, "I call National Rental. Tell them I'm leavin the car and start walking the 4 miles to the airport with my luggage. Fall at least five times in first 2 miles."
"What started off as, hey I'm going to have fun with it, I might as well, turned pretty scary when you hit the 15 and 16-hour mark," Herman said this week. "You see ladies strolling their babies down the middle of a five-lane interstate because they've got to get them out of their cars and they don't have anywhere to go and there's two inches of ice on the road.
"I didn't have any food or drink, not even a sip of water, from Tuesday at 9 a.m. to Wednesday at 7 a.m. So by the time I got out and decided to walk, I don't know if I had all my bearings."
In a chance twist, he eventually ran into a Delta employee at a gas station, and the man — refusing to take Herman’s $100 offering — shuttled him the rest of the way.
"I called him up and said, ‘Get a Gatorade and one of those protein bars and get to work; we have to go close Demetrius Knox,’" he said with a laugh. "And that's what he did."
Knox signed with the Buckeyes on Wednesday.
EXTRA POINTS: Meyer said sophomore Taylor Decker — the Buckeyes’ lone returning starter on the offensive line — will shift from right to left tackle this fall. Expect sophomore Jacoby Boren to step in at center, redshirt freshman Pat Elflein to man one of the guard spots, and an open battle for the other two vacancies. ... Meyer confirmed senior safety Christian Bryant’s final appeal to the NCAA for another year of eligibility has been denied. Bryant suffered a season-ending broken ankle in last season’s Big Ten opener against Wisconsin.