The truth is, we still don’t know. His only public comments about the upcoming campaign were made at the Ohio State national championship celebration in January, when he roused applause out of the more than 40,000 fans in attendance with a short trip to the microphone.
“It was a privilege and an honor to be a part of this national championship team in 2014, but guess what? We’ve got another year to do it, so go Bucks,” he said with Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett smiling and clapping behind him.
Previous to that, the last time Miller met with the beat media at Ohio State was the morning of Aug. 18. On that Monday morning, he was still on track to chase the Heisman Trophy as the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes, but he also still hadn’t taken part in a full throwing regimen as the opener with Navy beckoned 12 days in the future.
“I’m doing fine,” he said. “It’s just progression in my shoulder and it’s precaution. I don’t want to overdo it before the first game and have to sit out the first game.”
Mere hours later, Miller’s labrum was torn on a routine out route, his season over before it began. He underwent surgery a few days later then watched Barrett lead the team to an 11-1 season and Jones fill in during a magical run to the first College Football Playoff title.
Miller preferred to stay in the background during that run, quietly rehabbing throughout the offseason, but drumbeats soon grew as first Barrett and then Jones excelled in his stead. There were various reports that Miller, who graduated in December and entered graduate school, could use the NCAA rule that allows a player with a degree to transfer and retain immediate eligibility to move on to just about every other school in the nation.
But two things remain inarguable – Miller is still in Columbus, and he still hasn’t spoken with the media. Described by teammates as an introvert by nature, Miller chose not to during team-wide media opportunities at the Sugar Bowl and the national championship game and when given the option Thursday decided not to meet with the local media when Ohio State’s quarterbacks were made available.
In his stead Thursday, Miller’s teammates maintained that the two-time Big Ten MVP and league offensive player of the year is not going anywhere.
“I don't know about some of the media things that were coming out talking about Braxton leaving Ohio State. I think that was really silly,” Barrett said. “I mean, I'm not Braxton, but being that I do talk to him like every day, I think we'd both be shocked if he was to leave.
“I don't know. I think it's really ridiculous, honestly, but I don't know. I think that's the type of deal that there's competition and he's already graduated and could go somewhere else and this and that. I think you all just put too much into it, the media as a whole.”
When it comes to getting back to competition, Miller is progressing through what head coach Urban Meyer described as a nine-to-12-month rehab when the quarterback first had his surgery. He is throwing lightly at practice but not taking full drills or throwing at full strength, and he has continued to make occasional trips to Birmingham to meet with the staff of Dr. James Andrews, who performed the sugery.
“I love Braxton Miller, I always have,” Meyer said when asked how gratifying it was to see Miller in uniform Tuesday. “He’s always done what I’ve asked of him, he’s a selfless guy that works really hard. So, is there part of me that is excited to see that guy warm up and run through his drills and see that great attitude and that big smile on his face? Absolutely.”
Meyer has maintained that Miller is still in the running to serve as Ohio State’s quarterback and that position – where he has thrown for 52 touchdowns and run for 32 more in three seasons – is his natural one despite talk that the injured arm could push him to another spot on the field.
There’s also a new quarterbacks coach for Miller to get to know in Tim Beck, who has been complementary of his new charge since being hired and said he wasn’t surprised to see the quarterback skip interviews.
“No, I don’t know that it’s odd,” Beck said. “That’s up to him. I’m not gonna speak for him and put words into his mouth or where he’s going to be, but he’s a great young man. He really is. I really like him. Great young man.”
Added Jones, “He always comes out here with a great smile, always leading guys in a positive direction. But I don’t know what he’s thinking. To me, he’s being the leader he’s always been.”