Wally Pipp may be off the hook.
When Braxton Miller, Ohio State’s three-year starter and prodigal son of the Urban Meyer-led rebirth of the program, went down with a broken collarbone just weeks before the season, it was supposed to derail the Buckeyes’ national championship dreams. After a Week 2 loss at home to Virginia Tech, that’s exactly what seemed to be happening. JT Barrett threw three interceptions and took seven sacks. The Hokies overwhelmed the redshirt freshman replacement (and his inexperienced offensive line) as the Buckeye’s worst fears were coming true.
Yet in two short months, the Buckeyes are on a nine-game winning streak, are on the doorstep of a CFB Playoff berth, and Barrett is likely a Heisman finalist. He’s ranked third nationally in total QBR (87.8) behind only Marcus Mariota and Blake Sims.
So yeah…he’s pretty good.
What does that mean for Miller? After all, he’s 24-2 in his last two seasons as a starter and finished in the top ten of the Heisman voting in both years. He’s pretty good, too.
According to an NFL.com report, Miller plans on staying at Ohio State next season and fighting for his job – a job that Meyer said two months ago was safe despite Barrett’s promising play.
Last week, Meyer changed his tune.
“Competition brings out the best, and I’m really excited to have two really good quarterbacks next year, if that’s the plan.”
Enter Pipp – the Yankees’ all-star first baseman in the early 20th century who infamously sat out a game with a headache in 1925 only to be replaced by Lou Gehrig. Gehrig went on to start the next 2,130 games and Pipp’s career was over.
The good news for Miller is that he doesn’t have to suffer the same fate.
The NFL.com report says the door is not shut on a possible transfer. It also says Miller could consider moving to running back as well, but that doesn’t seem likely. He’s on track to graduate this year which would make him eligible immediately at another school.
Why should Miller stay? Why should Ohio State want him to stay? I don’t get the feeling Meyer is going to follow Miller out the door screaming for him to come back if he decides to bolt. After all, he’s got an equally capable – and more importantly, younger – talent in Barrett to help move the program ahead. If I’m Miller, there are way too many big-time programs who would welcome him with open arms for him to stick around and risk spending his last year on the bench or as a gadget player.
Can you imagine the sweepstakes to land this guy? How many cars would Alabama boosters ship to his house? Remember when Cam Newton “didn’t” get $200,000 to play for Auburn instead of Mississippi State? Miller’s got to command at least $300,000, then…right?
The list of schools who would line up for his services is ridiculous.
Here’s how I would rank the best possible landing spots:
- Florida State
Did you watch Sean Maguire stumble around the field against Clemson earlier this year? He very nearly blew the game – and FSU’s national title chances in the process – before the Tigers choked away the game in Tallahassee. In fairness, Maguire was a highly touted recruit and found out 18 hours before kickoff he was going to have to go the distance in the Noles’ biggest game of the year in prime time. Let’s just say it wasn’t the ideal circumstance for his first start. With a full spring practice and fall camp under his belt, he would probably be just fine replacing Jameis Winston next season.
But he’s not Miller. Jimbo Fisher has built a juggernaut in Tallahassee. Star skill players like Dalvin Cook, Mario Pender, Jesus Wilson, Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane all return next season. If you put Miller in charge of delivering those guys the ball, Florida State would be the favorites to win the national title, hands down.
Talk about fitting like a glove. Miller could step in for Marcus Mariota next season and the Ducks wouldn’t skip a beat. The biggest fear around Eugene is that Mark Helfrich is in over his head as Chip Kelly’s replacement and that Mariota is masking a lot of those issues. Once Mariota signs with an NFL team next spring, many fear that Oregon will take a big step back and never recover. Well that doesn’t happen if you insert the best dual-threat quarterback in the country in his place. There’s a lot of young talent at the skill positions for the Ducks – they just need a quarterback for the future. Miller would be a dynamite stopgap.
This is terrifying. Blake Sims is a senior, but Jacob Coker is only a junior. The way people talked about Coker after transferring last summer from Florida State you’d have thought he was the second coming of Joe Namath. He never won the job over Sims, who spent his first four years at Alabama holding a clipboard. It’s hard to believe Coker could beat out a proven All-American like Miller. The Crimson Tide will be loaded as always next season, and they’ve never had a player as versatile, or as talented, as Miller under center. It would be a game-changer.
Remember when Cam Cameron single-handedly turned Zach Mettenberger from a glorified frat league quarterback to an NFL starter? Imagine what he could do with Miller, whose pro prospects are already a question mark. If Miller’s looking for the best place to help him get drafted, Baton Rouge is the spot. Cameron has 15 years of NFL coaching experience to sell to Miller. Oh, by the way, LSU’s underclassmen are absolutely filthy. Can you imagine Miller and Leonard Fournette in the same backfield? How do you stop that?
Gainesville could become a premier destination if Jeremy Foley hires the right coach. If the Gators take the offensive guru route as expected, Miller would be a tasty option to help jumpstart the rebuilding process. Treon Harris is an intriguing talent and has a bright future, but the Gators coaches clearly don’t trust him much to throw the football right now. I mean, he spent the last few months learning from Jeff Driskel. Nobody deserves that. Can you imagine a better situation than Florida hiring a big-time playcaller (like, oh, say Chip Kelly…), redshirting Harris and letting him spend a year as Miller’s understudy? Suddenly Florida has a guy under center that can win games by himself, help turn the program around in a transition year in a very winnable division, and then turn the program over to a much more seasoned Harris in 2016. Gator fans are praying this happens.
If Braxton Miller changes his mind and decides to spend his last season somewhere other than Columbus, the race to land him is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen in college football ever. He’ll be the most sought-after transfer in the history of the game. All-American quarterbacks just don’t hit the open market. This seems like a win-win for everyone involved.
Even Wally Pipp.