If the Ohio State football team took the field for a game today, senior quarterback Braxton Miller would be ready — but he’s still limited in practice.
Throughout fall camp, Miller has been limited throwing the ball and was completely held out of 11 vs. 11 drills on more than one occasion. On Monday, he said he is “100 percent” and would be “for sure” ready to go if the Buckeyes had to take the field right away.
The Heisman Trophy candidate was limited to running plays at a Monday morning practice, but co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said Miller would be letting the ball fly Monday afternoon.
“On two-a-days, we give him the morning off throwing, and then he throws in the afternoons,” Herman said after the morning practice.
Miller, who missed three games last season because of a knee injury, hurt his shoulder in the Buckeyes’ 2014 Orange Bowl loss to Clemson and had surgery before spring practice began. The Huber Heights, Ohio, native was held out of spring camp completely and has continued to be limited during fall camp.
Just as he did in the spring, Herman said Miller can benefit from mental reps on the sideline this fall, even though he’s unable to throw as much as he might want to.
“You never want to not throw as a quarterback, I get that,” Herman said. “But it’s been good for (Miller), to be able to step back and again, kind of like we did in the spring. He’s very much engaged.
“He’s calling out protections; he’s going through his reads, all that stuff.”
While Herman recognizes that Miller wants to throw the ball, the signal-caller said he isn’t frustrated with his involvement in practice right now. He said he’s glad to have time to get valuable mental reps, which allow him to correct mistakes once he does step on the field.
“Mental reps is part of the game, too, so you see a guy who’s in there taking reps, and you see his mistake, you’re able to fix that mistake when you get in there,” Miller said. “Mental reps (are) one of the best parts of watching, too.”
Miller said his limitations throwing the ball stem from soreness in his back as he still works his way back into shape following the surgery.
“You know, just a little muscle around the surgery that I wasn’t using after I got the sling and stuff,” he said. “Since now I’m using it on an everyday basis, it just gets sore.”
Coming into fall camp, Miller said he knew what the plan was going to be since his muscles weren’t fully in shape. He said he was only throwing 100 percent every-other day during the summer and that he can’t immediately go back to throwing at every practice.
He went on to call the limits a “precaution” and said it’s more important to rest now so that he is ready to go Aug. 30 when OSU is scheduled to play Navy.
Herman said the Navy game isn’t in doubt yet for Miller, even though he had a slight setback with his muscle soreness.
“I think it’s too early to have that concern. I think the trainers are optimistic that everything is on schedule,” he said. “Had a little bit of a setback with some additional soreness that we weren’t expecting, but I’m not ready to say ‘concerned’ is the right word.”
While Miller works his way back, OSU’s backup quarterbacks, redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett and redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones, are reaping the benefits of time on the practice field with the No. 1 offense.
“For those young guys to get the live reps is invaluable,” Herman said of Barrett and Jones. “I mean, you can’t put a value on it because that usually doesn’t happen.”
It’s possible Barrett has benefited more than anyone from the current arrangement. After all, OSU coach Urban Meyer said on Saturday he moved ahead of Jones as the No. 2 quarterback on the Buckeye roster.
“Functionality, completing passes, growing up a bit, understanding things,” Meyer said of the reasons for Barrett’s rise. “He was always a little bit of a quiet guy. He’s starting to act like a quarterback.”
Herman said Barrett has separated himself by simply doing what a quarterback has to do best: move the football down the field.
“The offense moves more frequently when (Barrett) is the quarterback, and that’s the sign of a good one,” Herman said.
After the morning session, the Buckeyes were set to take the field once more Monday afternoon. Herman said the coaching staff would get a better gauge on Miller’s arm then.
OSU is scheduled to take the field again Tuesday before another two-a-day session on Wednesday. After that, the Buckeyes are set to have just three single-practice days left in fall camp.
OSU’s matchup with Navy is scheduled for noon on Aug. 30 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.