All this week, LGHL writers will be bring you articles with inspired by their favorite Ohio State theoretical questions. Check out all of our What If? thoughts throughout the week HERE. Whether you disagree, let us know what you think in the comments below and on Twitter @Landgrant33.
Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts. This week isn’t really much of a debate, per se, but we are keeping with the theme of ‘What If’ Week.
This week’s topic: What if former OSU stars played a different position?
Josh’s Take: Braxton Miller, WR
I am going to cheat just a little bit in this debate. If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying, right? The player I chose did play another position. He was pretty successful in doing so too. However, it was not until late in his career, and only came about as a result of injury.
What if Braxton Miller was always meant to play wide receiver (or H-back) for the Buckeyes? Would Ohio State, as crazy as it sounds, have been even more explosive by taking the ball out of his hands more often? I can feel Gene rolling his eyes after the last question, but I believe Miller could have been a difference-maker anywhere, any time, at any skill position. If he had converted to a skill position early in his career, it would have given Urban Meyer and Tom Herman another chess piece to play with. It may have also benefitted Miller’s professional career in the long run.
This is not an indictment on Braxton Miller the quarterback. He was one of my all-time favorite Buckeyes to watch, and he will go down in Ohio State history as potentially the most electric player to ever step on the football field… and that is exactly why I ask: what if? It is a testament to his athletic ability and football intelligence that he could sit out for a year, rehab an injury, learn a new position, and become such a dynamic weapon on the perimeter. As a redshirt senior, he was arguably the most dangerous pass catcher on the field. If he had reps under his belt sooner, is it crazy to think Miller could have been a Biletnikoff Award winner and contributed to multiple National Champions?
Braxton was great in 2012 and 2013. I am stating the obvious. He won back-to-back Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year awards, and finished inside the top-10 of Heisman voting both years. The 2012 team went undefeated in Meyer’s first season, but was banned from postseason play due to “Tattoo Gate”. 2013 looked promising, but ended with two consecutive heartbreakers. Ohio State jumped out to 12-0 records in both seasons, and Miller was dynamic, so why wonder if he could have been utilized better elsewhere?
Well for starters, he barely completed 60 percent of his passes as a quarterback. As difficult as it is to knock him for anything, he was not the most accurate passer. He made a ton of big throws, but also missed his fair share. Passing is not what made Miller special. It was his ability as an athlete that struck fear in opponents. If he were moved elsewhere, the only thing that would have changed was the player taking snaps. Maybe that player could have turned Miller into a 1,000 yard wide receiver.
The fact that Miller was taking every snap became a predictable crutch. Obviously, that was going to be the case with him at quarterback, but it was the usage that may have directly contributed to his injury and the Buckeyes coming up short in 2013. Through no fault of his own, the coaching staff consistently looked to Miller in big moments. But opposing defenses looked to him as well.
In that year’s Big Ten Championship game against Michigan St., OSU became far too predictable on offense. Miller did not have a good game throwing the ball, and the Buckeyes were forced to run the ball 40 times. The superstar from Huber Heights was stuffed on a pivotal 4th-and-2 because MSU knew what to sell out on. Miller’s presence on the field was sometimes taken for granted, and it led to coaches not always taking full advantage of the talent around him.
All this being said, the reason I believe Ohio State and Braxton Miller could have mutually benefitted from him playing wide receiver or running back, is because we got to see a glimpse of it. He caught 26 balls in 2015, yet was drafted to be an NFL wide receiver in the third round! He scored four total touchdowns that year, and the Texans felt fortunate to land him at No. 85 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Although the Buckeyes’ offense could look disjointed at times, that was primarily due to their indecision at quarterback. Miller only added value as a wide receiver. He had to be accounted for at all times and brought a unique element into play. He was a bit of a gadget player to begin the season, but developed into a real wide receiver with solid hands. His 4.5 speed further caught the attention of NFL scouts, and they determined he could play wide receiver at the next level. Imagine how good he could have been if given time to develop.
P.S. – The Spin Move. The greatest move in Ohio State history further cements my belief that Braxton Miller could have gone 1-on-11 and scored from anywhere or any position.
Gene’s Take: Chase Young, RB
I love the idea of Braxton Miller playing as a full-time receiver, but with the way Ohio State’s quarterback room looked at the time of him being the starting QB, it may not have been as easy to get the ball in his hands pre-J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones. I guess it’s kind of the issue that comes with the territory of moving a supremely talented player away from his natural position, because my pick runs into the exact same problem of not being able to replace him at his original spot once moved to a new position.
It wouldn’t be a smart move, as it would almost certainly handicap the Buckeye defense in the process, but I would’ve loved to see Chase Young try his hand at running back.
Now, for starters, Young would be one of the largest running backs the game has ever seen. The man nicknamed “The Predator” is listed at a whopping 6-foot-5, 265 pounds. By comparison, Ohio State’s running backs last season in Trey Sermon and Master Teague were listed at 6-foot, 215 pounds and 5-foot-11, 226 pounds. Even some of the biggest running backs we’ve seen tote the rock in recent years, like Derrick Henry at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, wouldn’t quite match up with Young’s tremendous size.
However, while incredibly large in stature, not many human beings on the planet can move quite like this with those measurables:
Chase Young getting in that work with training camp around the corner pic.twitter.com/MfCqBZhjIZ— Jordan Asri (@wfteamjordan) July 8, 2021
Now, what Young did at the defensive end position at Ohio State was nothing short of incredible. Over 25 games spanning his final two seasons in Columbus, Young registered an insane 27 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss. He was simply impossible to block one-on-one, and constantly demanded double and even triple-teams in order to keep him from eating the opposing quarterback alive on any given snap. He parlayed that talent into becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and followed that up by winning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Buckeyes needed Chase Young lining up on the edge as often as possible while he was in college, but how fun would it have been to see a freak athlete like himself take some snaps at running back. Young showcased his speed and athleticism bullying his way past opposing offensive lineman and chasing down quarterbacks for a living, so just put a ball in his hands and watch him go. Could you imagine a cornerback trying to tackle Young one-on-one in the open field? No chance. At 6-foot-5, put him in on the goal line and just have him fall forward for an easy score or utilize his power to smash through towards the end zone.
Unfortunately for my dreams of Young toting the rock, Ohio State had quite the talented running back at the time in J.K. Dobbins, so there wasn’t much of a reason to think of giving the ball to a defensive end instead. However, had Dobbins not existed, I think this experiment could have worked out. I don't think there are any other players in college football who have the athleticism necessary to make the jump from defensive lineman to running back and likely be successful at both, but Chase Young was no ordinary football player. Let that man eat!