COLUMBUS — The sun arose Tuesday, but life as Ohio State knew it did not go on.
The Buckeyes’ national championship hopes endured a devastating hit as their biggest fear became a reality. Quarterback Braxton Miller is out for the season after reinjuring his repaired right shoulder in practice Monday, the school confirmed.
An MRI revealed Miller, the back-to-back reigning Big Ten MVP, will require his second surgery in six months.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Braxton and his family,” Ohio State 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.”
Miller said he plans to red-shirt this season and return “stronger and better than ever” for a final year next fall. The senior said he will enroll in graduate school after graduating with a degree in communications in December.
“In the meantime,” he said, “I want to give all the support I can to my coaches and teammates as they chase a championship this season.”
News of Miller’s injury rocked college football, reverberating everywhere from Las Vegas — the LVH sports book dropped the Buckeyes’ title odds from 12:1 to 50:1 — to New York, the site of the annual Heisman Trophy presentation. Miller was billed as one of the top contenders for the award.
In Columbus, the Buckeyes closed ranks, canceling previously scheduled interviews with reporters while preparing for life without Miller. Ohio State will now turn to red-shirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who has yet to take a college snap but is billed as a cerebral, beyond-his-years leader.
Barrett surpassed third-year sophomore Cardale Jones as OSU’s top backup last week. A former four-star recruit ranked among the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Wichita Falls, Texas, native tore his ACL in October 2012 as a senior in high school and continued rehabbing the injury at OSU in 2013.
“I think he'll handle this well,” said Jim Garfield, Barrett’s coach at Rider High School. “He's been preparing for this his whole life. When he first put on the Buckeyes’ uniform, he felt like he was going to be playing for a national championship.”
On Twitter, OSU player personnel director Mark Pantoni wrote: “I'm excited to see [Barrett] lead this team. We have his back and are confident he's going to do big things with this offense!”
Meanwhile, Miller’s setback confirmed a creeping suspicion of many around the program that his shoulder was not healing as expected from surgery in February for a partially torn labrum. Miller reported soreness in the shoulder after the first preseason practice camp earlier this month, and coaches had since kept his passing workload to a minimum.
On Monday, Miller was throwing a short pass when he felt intense pain in his shoulder. Strictly off limits to contact, he was not touched on the play.
J.T. Barrett profile
■ Ht./Wt.: 6-1/225
■ Hometown: Wichita Falls, Texas
■ Class: Red-shirt freshman
■ Notes: Was considered one of nation's premier dual threat quarterbacks in Class of 2013, although his senior season came to an early end with a knee injury in the fifth game of the season ... rated as the No. 11 prospect in talent-rich Texas (247Sports) and a consensus four-star cornerback (ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports) ... a top 150 player by both Scout and 247Sports and on the ESPN 300 ... rushed for 569 yards with seven touchdowns and passed for 784 yards and five scores as a senior prior to the injury ... rushed for over 1,500 yards with nine touchdowns and passed for over 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior.
The impact of his loss is difficult to overstate. Perhaps no player nationally is more important to his team than Miller, who likely would have smashed every significant career OSU quarterback record this season. He is 26-8 as a starter and has piled up 8,346 yards of total offense and accounted for 84 touchdowns.
Still, any doomsday predictions are likely misguided. Ohio State will have significantly more talent than most of its opponents while the staff had time to adjust. Barrett and Jones, who were recruited to run Meyer’s spread-option offense, have taken nearly all of the repetitions with the first team since the end of last season.
“For those young guys to get the live reps is invaluable,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said Monday. “You can’t put a value on it because that usually doesn’t happen.”