"I think I'm ready."
That was Braxton Miller, Ohio State's outstanding junior quarterback, talking about the possibility of forgoing his senior season and playing football on Sundays next year. The Buckeyes' signal-caller, who has won 22 of 23 games as a starter over the last two seasons, would be leaving Columbus, Ohio and a team that could make a serious run at major college football's first playoff.
Whether he makes the NFL jump, though, has yet to be determined.
According to Mike Huguenin's NFL.com article, Miller won't make his decision until after Ohio State's matchup with Clemson in the Orange Bowl on January 3. His focus now is on beating the Tigers and helping his team bounce back from its first loss—a crushing 34-24 defeat to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game—in two years.
But that all-important decision is lurking.
“It's tough; I just don't know,” Miller told Teddy Greenstein of The Chicago Tribune. “I really have to sit down and go through the pros and cons. I'll talk to my parents, take it slow."
What will be the biggest factors going into Miller's decision?
The Injuries Are Piling Up
While Miller helped set a new school record for consecutive wins (24) over the last two years, that success took a heavy toll on the 6'2", 215-pound quarterback.
It's no secret that Urban Meyer uses the quarterback position to trigger a numbers advantage in the running game. That advantage is multiplied with a versatile weapon like Miller, who makes defenders miss and outruns just about everyone on the field.
Over the last two seasons, he has run the ball 380 times. In turn, that provided defenses with 380 opportunities to hit him without the protection of his offensive line.
That workload did damage.
During his freshman season, he had to leave the Nebraska game after rolling his ankle late in the third quarter. During his sophomore campaign, he had to be spelled during the Michigan State, Indiana and Michigan games and was knocked out of the Purdue contest entirely. While backup Kenny Guiton burned the Boilermakers with one of the most improbable comebacks of the season, Miller was bound for a Columbus hospital in the back of an ambulance.
This season, he missed most of three games after spraining his MCL against San Diego State.
As it turns out, Miller is tired of getting hit. In Greenstein's article, Miller voiced concerns about "exposing himself to the kind of injury he suffered in September."
That's understandable, especially when he receives an equivalent workload to most running backs.
An early jump to the NFL will guarantee Miller the opportunity to play in an offense that doesn't demand so much of him in the running game.
On the other hand, his durability will be a red flag for potential NFL suitors. Skipping his senior year would be easier on his body, but he'll also lose the ability to prove he can stay healthy over the course of a season.
What Are the Scouts Saying?
Despite the frequent injuries, Miller has been one of the most productive and explosive quarterbacks in college football. In his three seasons at Ohio State, he has completed 59 percent of his passes for 5,058 yards and 50 touchdowns against just 15 interceptions. He has also run for 3,019 yards and 30 touchdowns.
How does his game translate to the next level?
One NFL scout told Greenstein that Miller is very talented, but there are some concerns.
Braxton is an immense talent. His arm (strength) is ridiculous and he can make every throw, but his accuracy is all over place and needs a ton of work on his footwork. He’d probably be a third- or fourth-rounder; I’d be shocked if he went higher than that. He is still so raw.
Footwork and accuracy were two things that Miller worked on tirelessly during the offseason. According to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch, Miller enlisted the help of quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. to improve his mechanics.
At times, that improvement was so obvious that Miller looked like an NFL-ready quarterback.
During a three-week stretch against Penn State, Iowa and Purdue, he completed 79.7 percent of his passes for 707 yards and nine touchdowns (against just one interception) to go along with 177 rushing yards and two touchdowns. During that span, he only had four more incompletions than total touchdowns.
Miller's passing numbers dropped dramatically to close the season.
In his final four games, he completed just 46.2 percent of his passes for 544 yards and seven touchdowns against two interceptions. Granted, he did run for an unbelievable 623 yards and eight touchdowns during that stretch, but those accuracy issues came through in a big way.
That inconsistency, along with his durability, impact Miller's NFL value the most.
Should He Stay or Should He Go?
This decision comes back to Miller. Yes, there are injury concerns, and at the moment, he doesn't look like the polished product that most NFL teams look for in a high draft pick.
Could a breakout performance against Clemson change that? If he returns to the form he showed against Penn State, Iowa and Purdue, will teams be willing to overlook the inconsistencies to give him a shot?
As the scout told Greenstein, Miller is looking at a likely third- or fourth-round selection if he were to leave early.
There are others who think differently.
If Miller returns for his senior season and develops into the consistent quarterback that scouts want to see, there would be a much bigger paycheck waiting for him at the end of his collegiate career. If he leaves early, his future in the NFL would be dependent on making huge strides as a rookie.
Because of that, it would be in Miller's best interest to return to Ohio State for his senior season.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
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