Bruised and battered, Braxton Miller sat down after Ohio State's Orange Bowl collapse against Clemson and pondered his future.
As Ohio State announced Thursday, the Buckeyes quarterback will be coming back to Columbus to finish his collegiate career. OSU head coach Urban Meyer commented on Miller's return, hinting to his reasoning behind the decision.
We look forward to having Braxton Miller return to this team for his senior season. He has been an extremely valuable member of our team and he is also a fine student. His desire to lead our team to a championship, to earn his degree from The Ohio State University next spring and to continue to improve as a quarterback are his motivation.
“It's tough; I just don't know,” Miller said last month. “I really have to sit down and go through the pros and cons. I'll talk to my parents, take it slow. Hopefully ball out on January 3rd and see what the scouts are looking at.”
Now, however, Miller will be back as he looks to improve his game, obtain his degree and, of course, win a Big Ten Championship, per OSU's release:
I want to help this team win a Big Ten championship next year. Plus, I want to improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game. I'm looking forward to working for another year with Coach Meyer and Coach Herman.
And I want to graduate, so this will help get me closer to my academic goal.
Going into the offseason, his return will provide an enormous boost for an Ohio State offense that will already be tasked with replacing a major chunk of its ground game.
The Buckeyes will be without leading rusher Carlos Hyde and his backup, Jordan Hall, who will both be moving on. The two seniors combined for more than 2,000 rushing yards and represented nearly half of the squad's rushing production.
Miller was the team's No. 2 rusher, amassing 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he too had left, the Buckeyes would've lost 3,125 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns.
As that young duo moves into a major role, the Buckeyes will also welcome a loaded recruiting class that currently ranks No. 2 nationally. Among the blue-chip prospects set to come to Columbus are three 4-star receivers: Curtis Samuel, Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell.
They'll join a recruiting corps that will be vying to replace its No. 1 threat from 2013, Corey "Philly" Brown, a senior who led the team with 63 receptions, 771 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
While Brown is on his way out, the Buckeyes will bring back their No. 2, 3 and 4 receivers: Devin Smith, Jeff Heuerman and Evan Spencer.
With plenty of weapons joining and returning to the receiving corps, Miller will be fervently welcomed back into the passing game. That is especially true considering Ohio State would've brought back no experience at the position if he left.
Ohio State's No. 2 QB, Kenny Guiton, will also be leaving after throwing for nearly 800 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions as a senior in relief of Miller. Miller had a strong passing season, showing improvements from earlier in his career. He tallied more than 2,000 yards through the air with 24 scores and seven picks.
With both Miller and Guiton gone, the cupboard would be left drastically bare at quarterback; however, as his rough Orange Bowl performance showed, Miller still has room to improve before he is ready to be an NFL quarterback.
The Huber Heights, Ohio, native finished 16-of-24 for 234 yards with two touchdowns, but he threw two crippling interceptions and had one late fumble in OSU's narrow 40-35 defeat.
His first pick came late in the third frame, and Clemson took a lead on the ensuing series. He then coughed up a fumble after being sacked with just more than three minutes remaining in the contest.
OSU was given a golden opportunity when C.J. Barnett intercepted Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd on the next possession; however, Miller gave the ball right back to CU just two plays later—ending Ohio State's comeback hopes.
It also marked Ohio State's second straight loss to end a season that was defined by national title aspirations that weren't met.
Individually, Miller's season was defined by an early injury that derailed his Heisman Trophy hopes.
Ultimately, the defense—not Miller and the offense—was the source of OSU's late-season failures. That unit will be losing its best player, linebacker Ryan Shazier, who will be foregoing his senior season. The defense will also lose star junior cornerback Bradley Roby.
With several leaders departing, the return of one in Miller is crucial for Ohio State's Big Ten and national title hopes in 2014.
Without Miller, Hyde, Shazier and Roby, the Buckeyes would've entered the 2014 campaign with no identity whatsoever.
Now that Miller is returning, he'll be depended upon to put Ohio State back on track to the national title. With some luck, he'll head to New York as a Heisman contender in the process.
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