Braxton Miller's health a crucial question for Ohio State

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When five-star quarterback Braxton Miller committed to Ohio State before the 2011 season, it was clear that he was going to one day carry the program.

However, who would have thought he would still be doing it four years later?

Miller, a 6-foot-2 passer with sub-4.5 speed, will enter his senior season this year. However, many could have envisioned an alternative universe where Miller declared for the NFL Draft as a junior.

In fact, that probably would have been reality, if it weren't for the fact that Miller suffered a shoulder injury in Ohio State's 40-35 Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, which ended a 12-2 campaign for the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes' most important player

Quarterback is always a position of great importance. That is doubly true for Miller, who has been the team's leading signal caller each of the last three years. 

In fact, he is the only quarterback on the roster to have taken a meaningful in-game snap. Ohio State will also be facing the difficulty of having to replace four starters on the offensive line.

Running back Carlos Hyde led the team with 1,521 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. But he too will be gone, drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the NFL Draft.

That puts more pressure on Miller to keep the offense steady.

The gunslinger is well up to the challenge, having eclipsed 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing each of the past two seasons. He's scored 84 touchdowns in his career, living up to the high expectations he had entering college.

But in order to contribute, Miller will have to conquer his greatest weakness. He'll have to stay on the field.

Injury concerns

Miller has yet to complete a full season without missing a game. He's left six games with injuries since 2011, when he became Ohio State's starter. 

More recently, he injured that shoulder against Clemson but didn't have surgery on it until February. That led him to missing spring practice while recovering and it is leading to concerns from some that he might not be 100 percent when the season begins.

Speaking at Big 10 media days, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer tried to put those rumors to rest.

"He is ready to go," Meyer said. "He's full speed, best shape he's ever been in his life."

That will put some minds at ease.

However, a young and inexperienced offensive line can quickly turn a healthy quarterback into a broken and bruised one. 

And without a proven backup in place, Ohio State will be in trouble if Miller does go down for any extended period of time.

That's why Buckeye faithful should be crossing their fingers and swearing by their lucky rabbit foots, hoping and praying that Miller doesn't go down. If he does, their season might just be lost.

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