Meyer, Buckeyes React To Loss of Miller

Meyer, Buckeyes React To Loss of Miller

Ohio State's head coach and some veteran players met with the media one day after learning they will play the 2014 season without two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller at quarterback.

Urban Meyer's description of the reaction to the loss of senior quarterback Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury was not a surprise.

"Oh it was devastating," Meyer said Wednesday. "It was a bad deal."

While he acknowledged having second thoughts about how Miller was handled in the aftermath of what was described as "minor, outpatient surgery" Feb. 2, the head coach of the Buckeyes also qualified that response by explaining that is not unique to how he approaches any situation.

“I second guess everything," Meyer said. "Third down and six, we don’t get it I second guess, why didn’t we run that third down and six? When I say second guess, I just ask the questions because I’m not a doctor. I don’t know, but I’ve been around long enough things happen and it’s unfortunate.”

After noting freshman linebacker Kyle Berger also suffered a recurrence of a knee injury from his high school football career, Meyer said, “I have great trust in our medical staff, but sure second guess, yes. I wouldn’t say second guess, just make sure, evaluation we’re doing the best we can.”

Meyer went on to praise Miller's expected replacement, calling J.T. Barrett "kind of Guitonish," a reference to Kenny Guiton, the Buckeyes' now-graduated super-sub quarterback of the past two years who excelled in several opportunities to replace an injured Miller.

"It's a difficult part of the sport. It breaks your heart, it shatters your heart, but you have to get the other guy ready," Meyer said.

The "other guy" is a redshirt freshman who was a four-star recruit as a senior in Wichita Falls (Texas) Rider two years ago. He sat out last season while continuing to recuperate from knee surgery but received a lot of reps with the first team during the spring and preseason while Miller rested his shoulder. He shared those reps with sophomore Cardale Jones, whom Barrett recently passed on the depth chart.

"I still really like our team -- really really like our team," Meyer said, noting some of the best quarterbacks in the game are distributors. "I watch Peyton Manning play and I'm in awe."

Even before Miller was injured, the offseason was dominated by talk about developing aspects of the offense to allow the attack to rely less on Miller's dynamic running ability and more on the playmakers around him, so not everything will necessarily change with someone new at the helm.

"We'll figure out what pieces we have," Meyer said. "The good thing is the pieces around him are I don't want to give them too much credit but I'm hoping we can throw some short balls and turn them into long gains."

Senior Doran Grant expressed empathy for Miller's injury.

"The class of 2011, we're a very tight-knit group, so it hit me pretty hard, but you know we've got to step it up," Grant said. "We have to."

He also acknowledged similarities between Barrett and Guiton, who is also a Texas native but was not nearly as well regarded a a high school player.

"Knowing J.T., he does what KG does," Grant said. "Take those mental reps, and he has had a lot of competitive reps this fall and been looking pretty good."

Tight end Jeff Heuerman, another senior and one who started his college career as an early enrollee along with Miller in January 2011, sounded like a veteran taking the loss in stride while describing how hard it was to watch Miller go through the immediate aftermath of the second injury Monday.

"I was with him when his shoulder was out of place and I'd never seen him like that," Heuerman said. "He was in pain. We kind of knew right away that it wasn't gonna be good, but you know what, Braxton's a tough kid. He's been through injuries in the past and been through adversity in his life and I think if it's gonna happen to anyone, he's probably the one that can handle it the best."

But Heuerman, like his coach and teammates, spoke of the necessity to move on.

"I know one thing -- we have a lot more playmakers this year than we have in years past. We've probably got three, four, five more playmakers than we did in years past. We're gonna rely on some of them to have to make some plays and we're gonna have to account for some of the things we're not gonna have with Braxton out of there. It's no secret he's probably one of the most explosive players ever to play this game, especially at Ohio State. We're not naive to that. We're going to have to make up some ground, but I think we have the players and the coaching staff we can do that."

Follow on Twitter @marcushartman

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