Most players at Ohio State spend the majority of their lives perfecting the crafts at the position they are counted on to play at the highest possible level every Saturday in the fall.
Others are moved around upon arriving on campus, but receive a redshirt year or time in a reserve role before stepping into the spotlight.
For redshirt senior Braxton Miller, none of the above applies.
The starting quarterback for each of his first three years for OSU, a shoulder injury just before the 2014 campaign cost the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year his senior season.
Stellar play by quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett that year led the Buckeyes to a national championship, but it also cost him his opportunity to ever regain that spot.
Rather than sit on the bench or transfer to another school — where he would be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer — to keep his career as a signal-caller alive, Miller opted to finish out his collegiate life in a role he had never done before: playing receiver.
“He’s starting, he’s playing and he’s teaching,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said. “One of the things with Braxton I have talked, he’s got big-time goals and he should. He’s very blessed. He wants to play at the next level.”
Miller was seemingly shot out of a cannon in OSU’s opening game at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7, piling up 140 total yards of offense and two touchdowns. But his next four games saw no repeat of that performance, as he only amassed a total of 123 yards and zero scores.
Despite the lack of results, Miller said he was continuing to feel more and more productive each week.
“Every practice and every game I get better at something,” Miller said. “It’s turning the mistake that you did the day before and just getting comfortable with what you’re doing.”
And he certainly did look more comfortable in OSU’s more recent game against Maryland, catching five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown, including back-to-back grabs leading to his score.
The 19-yard touchdown catch marked the first time Miller found the end zone at Ohio Stadium since Nov. 23, 2013. Miller said he considered the feeling a big moment of his journey.
“It was about time,” he said. “It just felt good being involved in the offense, making plays for the guys, being electrifying for the fans, just getting back to my old self.”
Miller said he considers himself a receiver at his core now with his quarterback days behind him. However, he has lined up under center in the wildcat formation at least once in each of OSU’s games this season, though so far he has only been called upon to run or catch.
Still, the Huber Heights, Ohio, native hinted on Monday that a showcase of his healthy shoulder could be in the cards for sometime this season.
“I can throw,” Miller said. “But my main focus is playing receiver and just focused on what I’ve got to focus on for my position right now.”
Meyer said over the summer that it typically takes a player a year and a half to learn how to play receiver. On Monday, he said it has taken Miller only half a season.
“As of right now, he’s fully integrated as a wide receiver at Ohio State,” Meyer said. “He was not early in the season. He didn’t know what to do.”
Miller agreed with his coach, saying he feels like a natural receiver just midway through his first season at the position.
“I’m ahead of schedule. I feel good, comfortable. I’m out there making plays, blocking, I just feel good,” he said.
With the OSU offense struggling for downfield playmakers after season-ending injuries to receivers Noah Brown and Corey Smith and inconsistency from H-back Jalin Marshall, Miller could be a major cure for the much-scrutinized passing game.
But how much does Miller miss being the one running the offense, rather than taking orders? Not much, he said, as long as he still gets opportunities to appear on the highlight reels.
“It’s fun just making guys miss, catching the ball, making big plays.”