Why Braxton Miller Saved Ohio State Football

There will point-blank, almost never be an Ohio State player like Braxton Miller.

The kid from Huber Heights, who once (allegedly) made Chicago Cubs outfielder and former Middletown High School linebacker Kyle Schwarber decide to play baseball instead of football, saved Ohio State from the pits of mediocrity.

Let’s take you back a bit to 2010. The Buckeyes are coming off a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas, who was led by ex-Wolverine legend, Ryan Mallett. Ohio State and Jim Tressel certainly had one of the best programs in the country, but could you consider them on the level of present-day elite programs such as Clemson and Alabama?

Absolutely not. “Tresselball” won the program so many big games and Tressel lost to TTUN just once in ten years, reversing the Cooper years to an extent. What Tresselball did not do was make any lead feel comfortable. Tresselball had you score a couple of first half touchdowns, and proceed to sit on the ball and play defense for the final thirty minutes.

The reason I am bringing Tresselball into the equation is that Braxton Miller, like Terrelle Pryor before him, wasn’t the perfect fit for the offense. Braxton could run like a deer coming out of high school with a 4.45 forty-yard dash time and throwing hadn’t been a huge part of his game.

The whole Tresselball identity was to run formations with just two receivers and utilize the run game heavily while lining the quarterback up under center. Miller ran exclusively out of the shotgun in high school and that system was part of the reason he was rated as the best high school football player in Ohio and a consensus top-30 recruit in the country.

College programs saw elite playmaking ability and an absolute gem running the football. Yeah, his passing wasn’t perfect but he would have plenty of time to improve. So from a timing standpoint, Ohio State made sense for Braxton.

Pryor was coming back for his senior year, and would presumably be one of the best quarterbacks in the country on one of the best teams in the country. Braxton could sit on the sidelines a year and learn behind Pryor, then become the starter for the 2012 season. Then tat-gate hit.

Tat-gate happened. Pryor and Tressel were both gone. Ohio State’s roster took a hit, with players transferring and other key players being suspended for five games including All-Big ten tackle Mike Adams, the team’s best running back Dan “Boom” Herron, and promising young receiver Devier Posey.

Luke Fickell was appointed as the interim coach and now the quarterback battle in fall camp would take place between noted-elite senior in Joe Bauserman… and true freshman Braxton Miller.

The 2011 season was a struggle for the team, as they finished 6-7in Fickell’s lone year. The defense wasn’t awful given the situation they were handed. But the offense, oh boy the offense. They finished 81st in the country in scoring.

But, Braxton played exceptionally if you cross off September. He led the team in rushing despite not starting every game, he almost singlehandedly willed the Buckeyes to a win in Ann Arbor before dropping the game late. His passing wasn’t great by any stretch but a 13-4 touchdown to interception ratio isn’t bad at all. He showed how much of an athlete he was and racked up almost 2000 all-purpose yards.

After the 2011 season, Urban Meyer was hired. Meyer brought a spread offense that was similar to the one he ran in high school. As a result, Braxton exploded and became one of the most electric quarterbacks in college football.

He was perhaps the biggest reason the Buckeyes 2012 team, noted for not having the most talent in the world, went undefeated and would have been presumably playing for a national championship against Manti Te’o and Notre Dame. Braxton totaled over 3300 total yards and 28 touchdowns during the season.

Related Story: A deep dive into Ohio State's imperfectly perfect 2012

We all know what happened in corresponding years. In 2013 the Buckeyes had an unbeaten regular season again, and then were upset in the Big Ten Championship by Michigan State and then losing in the Orange Bowl to Clemson where Miller hurt his shoulder.

That shoulder never healed properly, as he injured it again in fall camp before the 2014 season and he missed the season. Ohio State then went on an improbable run without their star and at one point being down to their third-string quarterback to sneak into the College Football Playoff.

They beat major favorite Alabama before capping off the title-winning season with a romp over Oregon. In 2015, everyone knew Braxton would not be the quarterback as it would either go to J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones, but he made a completely selfless move to receiver where he finished his college career playing as a dynamic pass-catcher and ball-carrier.

He was perhaps under-utilized though. Braxton was drafted in the third round by the Houston Texans in the 2016 NFL draft and played two full seasons before bouncing to a couple of different teams. He last played in 2019.

After all he brought to Ohio State football, questions remain. What if he never committed to Ohio State, would Urban Meyer saw the Buckeyes trot out Bauserman and perhaps the likes of Taylor Graham and Kenny Guiton in 2011 and chose not to come to Ohio State?

Next: What would have happened if OSU didn't get Urban?

Would Ohio State recruiting have fallen off, perhaps with incoming recruits not knowing who the quarterback would be? Would Ohio State ever have become an elite national power with Alabama and Clemson? Those questions we may never know, but every Buckeye fan should be thankful for Braxton Miller.