Ohio State football star Braxton Miller just shocked the college football world, making the bold decision to switch from quarterback to receiver for the Buckeyes this season.
It’s the best decision he’s ever made, as far as his future NFL career is concerned.
Miller himself broke the news to SI.com’s Pete Thamel on Thursday:
“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller said in a phone interview on Thursday night. “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.”
The H-Back role is intriguing, though returning punts might not be such a great idea, given the fact it’s still going to be a couple months before his shoulder is 100-percent healed.
For those who may not be familiar, an H-Back is essentially a tight end who doesn’t line up on the offensive line. Rather, they line up behind the line of scrimmage and can be utilized to great effect in the passing game on play-action. The position is a bit different for Ohio State, however, as in the offensive system run by Urban Meyer, it’s more of a hybrid receiver, per Thamel. But the concept remains the same.
Given Miller’s size, at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he may be even better suited to play outside as a true receiver. He’s not big enough to be an effective run-blocker, nor is such an activity going to be good for his health.
Where Miller should be utilized is specifically in the passing game, or as runner on reverses and options. His electric playmaking abilities have long been on display, as his 3,054 rushing yards clearly indicate.
Blessed with raw speed and agility that cannot be taught, the former quarterback knows how to shake defenders out of their shoes.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising Miller’s new position coach Zach Smith thinks his new protege can be “just like Joey Galloway,” as Thamel notes. Galloway, Ohio State fans will tell you, was an outstanding receiver for the Buckeyes. He also went on to have a phenomenal career in the NFL, racking up 701 catches for 10,950 yards and 77 touchdowns.
Like Galloway, Miller will be able to stretch the field for the Buckeyes this year, and he’s excited about what the position change will do for his team:
“It’s going to be electric,” Miller said. “We had a great season last year, but we didn’t 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’s position change is good for Ohio State this year. It gives the Buckeyes another explosive athlete who can line up all over the field. It also takes all the pressure off any kind of quarterback controversy that may have arisen between himself and Cardale Jones, who most NFL draft people believe is the better quarterback anyway.
But even more important than the benefit to the Buckeyes is the benefit to Miller himself as he attempts to move from the college ranks into the NFL next year. He was never a prolific passer to begin with. Accuracy has been an problem for him at times, and while arm talent has never been an issue he isn’t a natural pocket passer.
As we’ve seen in the NFL, athletic quarterbacks who aren’t natural pocket passers tend to struggle. Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Michael Vick, among others, all have found it difficult to maintain excellence as a passer in the big-boy league.
Vick never did develop the ability to thrive in the pocket, and the aforementioned trio of young quarterbacks are still trying to find their way.
Making it in the NFL as a passer would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Miller. And while he’s been pointing to his injured shoulder as the reasoning behind his decision to switch positions, you can bet he has heard this same argument from his inner circle.
Miller has a real shot to make a lasting impact in the NFL as a receiver, provided he learns and perfects the skills it takes to do so.
Taking an entire year to learn his craft gives him a tremendous advantage over Terrelle Pryor, who recently made the same switch in the NFL. Pryor, by the way, finally made this decision after banging his head against the wall for three years as a quarterback. Interestingly, both players thrived in college in exactly the same way playing the quarterback position.
Miller is making a smart decision to make the switch now, and if he sticks with it, then his NFL career is going to be far more fruitful as a result.
Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports