Former quarterback Braxton Miller told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel on July 23 he will make the switch to wide receiver for the 2015 NCAA season. The move eases the logjam at quarterback for the Buckeyes, which will now be competed for by J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.
Braxton Miller will no longer be a quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
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Instead, Miller told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel on July 23 he will now be a wide receiver for Ohio State. The thought of catching first occurred to Miller durig a discussion with strength coach Mickey Marotti three months ago.
A month later, Miller discussed the possibility with Buckeyes head football coach Urban Meyer. They began watching film of star wide receivers including Joey Galloway, DeVier Posey, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Jr. and Cris Carter shortly afterward.
That same month, Miller began catching footballs from quarterback J.T. Barrett, per SI.com.
However, Meyer told The Columbus Dispatch's Tim May and Bill Rabinowitz in the aftermath of the SI.com report that he hasn't given Miller's switch to wide receiver his full approval just yet:
"I haven't made those decisions yet. It seems like it's a little bit jumping the gun. Braxton came to see me...He's been talking to me about it. We've been working at it. But I'm not ready to say exactly how we're going to use him yet."
Nonetheless, Meyer marvels at Miller's unbelievable athletic prowess, per May and Rabinowitz.
"I think Braxton can do just about anything he wants," Meyer said. "He's that kind of athlete."
Thamel says Miller kept his plan of switching to wide receiver a secret just in case he couldn't keep up with the demands of the quarterback position after two shoulder surgeries. The more recent one made him sit out the entire 2014 NCAA season.
More specifically, Miller told SI.com on Thursday he will be an H-back, a hybrid receiver position in the Ohio State system.
According to Thamel, Miller "can also take passes, shovel passes, catch bubble screens and even throw the ball on trick plays" as an H-back.
Despite the switch, Miller said he will still play a bit of quarterback -- 20 percent of the time during training camp, by his estimation. However, his shoulder hasn't been completely healthy for him to compete as a play caller, which is why he will be more of a wide receiver, per Thamel.
Miller confirmed this to The Columbus Dispatch on Thursday.
"It's getting on the field while the shoulder is healing for playing quarterback," he quipped.
Miller told SI.com he will also see some time at special teams as a punt returner:
"For the most part, it's going to be H-back and punt return. It's a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities.
"I'm going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.
"It's going to be electric. We had a great season last year, but we see anyone do off-the-wall type stuff. I'm sure guys miss seeing an explosive, 60-yard shake-and-bake run every once in a while."
Miller hasn't played punt returner since his high school days. But putting in some time watching film of the St. Louis Rams' Tavon Austin and the Atlanta Falcons' Devin Hester has boosted his confidence, per Thamel.
"That's fun, too, man," Miller told SI.com. "Be confident catching the ball, make sure your surroundings are perfect. Make one guy miss and you're gone."
Miller's father, Kevin, told Thamel he envisions his son playing the wide receiver position like former Florida Gators star Percy Harvin, who now plays for the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
For his part, Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith told SI.com sees Miller as the second coming of Joey Galloway, a former Buckeyes star:
"Braxton Miller can play wide receiver as long as he wants to play it. His speed, strength, talent, commitment and really, lifestyle will allow him to be like Joey Galloway. It's going to be a matter of how quickly he grows into the position, but the sky is the limit for him."
Thamel stresses Miller's switch to wide receiver boosts the Buckeyes offense and eases the formerly three-player logjam at quarterback, now down to a battle between redshirt junior Cardale Jones and redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett.
Miller's season-ending shoulder injury occurred during the 2013 Orange Bowl. In the three years prior to the injury, he threw for 8,346 yards and 84 touchdowns as the Buckeyes' quarterback. His performance earned him consecutive Big Ten Player of the Year awards in 2012 and 2013, per ESPN.
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