While there is no minimizing the loss of senior quarterback Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury, the thought that all is lost for Ohio State may be somewhat an overreaction. Here are five reasons Buckeye fans should remain optimistic:
The Buckeyes open up the season against Navy on Aug. 30. The greater challenge in this game has always been for the defense which must deal with the Midshipmen’s triple option offense. The following week Ohio State hosts Virginia Tech. Hokies’ defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s crew will be a handful, but it shouldn’t be a game that requires 40 points to win. By the time, the Buckeyes travel to Penn State (Oct. 25) and Michigan State (Nov. 8), they should have had plenty of time to gain valuable experience.
There is no doubt this will be a young Ohio State team. However, Meyer has pulled together three consecutive top-five recruiting classes with a focus on defense and speed. On the offensive side of the ball, there is an array of talent at the skill positions. Miller’s replacement, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, is a four-star recruit.
3. Practice time
If there has been one silver lining with Miller’s injury, it has been both Barrett and redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones have been able to get first team reps since spring practice. Practice doesn’t replace game experience. However, both quarterbacks were able to build chemistry with teammates on the practice field instead of being thrown into the fire in the middle of the season.
4. Head coach Urban Meyer
Meyer has a good track record with dual-threat quarterbacks dating back to his days at Bowling Green with Josh Harris. During the second game of his first year (2003) at Utah, quarterback Brett Elliott broke his wrist and was replaced by Alex Smith, who at that point had thrown two career passes. Smith would go on to lead the Utes to a 21-1 record as a starter and later become the number one overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
5. Defensive Line
Meyer and his staff have built arguably the nation’s best unit that features speed on the edge, run-stuffing tackles and depth. Senior Michael Bennett and junior Adolphus Washington man the inside while the edge duo of junior Noah Spence and sophomore Joey Bosa should keep opposing offensive coordinators awake at night. The two combined for 15.5 sacks and 28 tackles for losses last season.
The youthful Buckeyes will need for the offensive line, running game and pass defense to step up—but that was needed even with Miller at the controls.
You don’t replace a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year. However, Ohio State still has the pieces in place to play in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 6.