Ohio State star Braxton Miller says he will switch positions from quarterback to wide receiver for his senior season, giving coach Urban Meyer a much easier path to selecting a starter among three experienced candidates, and giving the NFL a look at his ability to play a position he is better suited for as a pro at the same time.
Miller told Sports Illustrated about the move on Thursday, although according to the report, it has been in the works for some time. Meyer, however, indicated no final decision has been made.
"For the most part, it's going to be H-Back and punt return," Miller told Sports Illustrated. "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."
Shortly after Miller's comments broke, Meyer put his foot on the brake.
"I haven't made those decisions yet," Meyer told The Columbus Dispatch.* * "It's a little bit jumping the gun here. Braxton came to see me. He's been talking to me about it (the switch). We've been working at it, but I'm not ready to say exactly how we're going to use him yet."
While Meyer might be reticent to reveal anything definitive about his myriad of quarterback options, his acknowledgement that the move has been discussed suggests the plan already was underway. The SI report indicates Miller will continue to take some practice repetitions at quarterback, but moving Miller clearly would make a brutally tough quarterback decision much easier for Meyer. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, Miller has the size to play quarterback at the NFL level, but his ability to run has always been his strong suit over his passing skills. As such, a move to wide receiver makes sense for a player who led the Buckeyes more with his feet than his arm in 2012 and 2013, and missed all of last year with an injury to his throwing shoulder.
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah called the position switch for Miller "a great move" that will "make NFL scouts very happy." It's long been believed that transitioning away from quarterback would be the best thing for Miller's future as a pro.
J.T. Barrett led Ohio State to an 11-1 regular season record last year before a leg fracture ended his season. Cardale Jones played the final three games of the year for OSU -- all postseason contests -- and won them all to clinch a national title. That placed Miller in something of an awkward position, and it was questionable whether he would win his old job back despite a 24-0 regular-season record as a starting quarterback from 2012-2013.
While Miller's ability to play receiver should be on full display for NFL scouts, it could also pay big dividends for the Buckeyes. Meyer could use Miller much the same as he did Percy Harvin at Florida, putting the ball in his hands as a rusher as well as a receiver. Buckeyes coach Zach Smith invoked the name of one of the best wide receivers in OSU history in describing Miller's potential at the position.
"Braxton Miller can play wide receiver as long as he wants to play it," Smith told SI. "His speed, strength, talent, commitment and, really, lifestyle will allow him to be like Joey Galloway. It's going to be a matter of how quickly he grows into the position, but the sky is the limit for him."
According to the report, Miller first brought up the idea of moving to wide receiver in April, and began preparing for the role by catching passes from Barrett in May.
It's a good move for Miller, and an even better one for the Buckeyes.