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COLUMBUS — A surgery billed as minor in February has invited major speculation about Braxton Miller six months later.
Ohio State’s quarterback reportedly reinjured his repaired right shoulder in practice on Monday night, leaving the Heisman contender’s senior season and the fifth-ranked Buckeyes’ national championship ambitions in jeopardy.
The Columbus Dispatch first reported the injury late Monday. A source told CBSSports.com Miller was throwing a pass in a noncontact drill when he felt significant pain in his shoulder and left practice, adding that an MRI is scheduled for this morning.
A team spokesman could not be reached for comment, while the severity of the injury could not immediately be confirmed.
The latest development packed a potential devastating wallop for Ohio State, though it did not emerge from nowhere. For weeks, if you scanned the OSU message boards or flipped on the radio, a sense of uncertainty grew with each passing day that Miller remained limited.
Was Miller really OK? Was Ohio State being entirely truthful about the degree of the injury? And would its most electric playmaker be ready for the season opener Aug. 30 against Navy?
The answer to everything is maybe not.
Finally, on Monday, the team-described molehill may have become a mountain, likely elevating redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett as the starting quarterback to begin the year.
Few players nationally are more important to their team than Miller, the back-to-back Big Ten MVP and the player face of the Buckeyes’ school-record 24-game winning streak. A year after throwing for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and running for another 12 TDs, he was expected to lead an OSU offense that must replace four offensive linemen, its top running back (Carlos Hyde), and top wide receiver (Corey Brown).
Earlier Monday, Miller and coaches kept alive hope the back-to-back Big Ten MVP would be fine for the season — even if his recovery from surgery for a partially torn labrum has not gone entirely as expected.
Asked if he had a message for worried fans, Miller said, “I'm doing fine.”
"It's just a progression with my shoulder, just a precaution,” he said. ”I don't want to overdo it and then have to sit out the first game because my muscle is too sore. It's part of the plan.”
Miller, who said he felt strong throwing to teammates every other day in July, reported soreness in his shoulder after the first practice of camp earlier this month and has since been equipped with a more cautious-than-expected regimen. He missed most of the team’s first two full scrimmages and has been limited in practice. On Monday, Miller did not test his arm in the Buckeyes’ morning practice before throwing in the later practice.
“I'd like to run the first team out there and go, and we're not able to do that right now,” coach Urban Meyer said last weekend.
“He is where he is right now not because the shoulder is injured, but because of the fatigue of multiple practices day after day after day, 50, 60, 70 balls being thrown,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said earlier Monday. “The thing is going to get tired. The muscles aren't ready for that. So we've got to continue to build him up.”
Still, Herman said, “Everything is on schedule. He had a little bit of a setback with additional soreness that we weren’t expecting, but I'm not ready to say concerned is the right word.”
Meyer, meanwhile, came just short of guaranteeing Miller will begin the season on the field.
“I know he'll be ready,” he said. “I've known Braxton for three years, and it's almost like looking at your son. You can see in his face if he's concerned, and he's not. I trust that he'll be ready.”
If Miller is sidelined, the first call will likely go to Barrett, a former four-star recruit from Texas who surpassed sophomore Cardale Jones in the backup quarterback derby last week.
“The offense moves better when [Barrett] is in there,” Herman said.