How Braxton Miller's move makes Ohio State even bigger title favorites
Fresh off some big Ohio State news and in the middle of conference media days, so it's a good time to check out the mailbag.
As always, send your football questions to me via Twitter to @BruceFeldmanCFB.
From @CenCalFaithful: Realistically, what should fans expect to see from Braxton Miller this season? Can he have an impact?
Braxton Miller opting to shift to receiver or the hybrid running back/receiver role in Urban Meyer's system is great news for Ohio State football in 2015 — and also great news for Miller's pro future. His shoulder was shaky and who knows how well it would've held up. That point was the missing piece in all the "Braxton may transfer" chatter this offseason. His ailing shoulder allowing him to even be able to throw a football consistently was being overlooked because he just wasn't ready.
In terms of his long-range pro prospects, even though Miller has a strong arm, he's struggled developing touch on his passes. There were also lots of concerns about his accuracy and timing. By the way, those are areas that J.T. Barrett excels in, which is why, along with the sophomore's rock-solid leadership skills, I expect he will emerge as the Buckeyes' starting QB in 2015, although strong-armed Cardale Jones won't be easy to beat out.
As for how Miller, an explosive 6-foot-1, 215-pounder with legit 4.3 speed, will fit in at OSU in his new role: It's just one more game-breaker added to a loaded offense that already featured Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuels, Jalin Marshall, Mike Thomas, Dontre Wilson and tight end Nick Vannett. That is a ton of speed and plenty of playmakers for Meyer to work with, especially when you put it with the best O-line in college football. How exactly Miller meshes in this system will be fascinating.
Coaches I spoke to early Friday morning said Miller's biggest adjustment will be handling the little nuances of the position, particularly the route running while running fast and catching the ball. As a life-long QB, he already has a sense of where the windows are in zones. In regards to a question about Miller's hands, one long-time receiver coach pointed out that as a quarterback, Miller's basically played catch essentially every day of his football life.
Miller does have the kind of explosiveness that Percy Harvin, currently a wide receiver with the Buffalo Bills, had when he was an X-factor of sorts in Meyer's offense at Florida. From talking to people inside the Buckeyes program, a program with a bunch of speedsters and former track guys, Miller had the fastest 10-yard split of anyone on the team. Think of what he can do on the business end of those Jet-sweeps OSU loves to run, especially playing off Elliott to keep defenses honest.
After all, the Buckeyes' bread and butter is pounding teams with Elliott, another guy with blazing speed who, as he showed against 'Bama, can turn 8-yard gains into 80-yard TDs. On the outside, OSU already could get defenses on their heels because of their wideouts. In Marshall, the Buckeyes have an elusive guy who is also great in space, whereas Thomas — Keyshawn Johnson's nephew — is a big, physical target with excellent body control.
It'll be interesting to see, with all of these playmakers, how the Buckeyes handle ball distribution, but that is a very good "problem" to have.
From @Eli_Marger: What 1-for-1 player trades would drastically improve both teams' chances of a national title?
Lots of teams are in need of a QB, but there aren't that many extra ones available. I think Oklahoma, though, could trade quarterback Trevor Knight, who has thrown 23 career TD passes and has some mobility (and has been sacked only 11 times in two seasons), to Alabama for one of the Tide's excellent D-linemen. My hunch is Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield will end up overtaking Knight at OU.
I don't think 'Bama would give up A'Shawn Robinson, not unless it was getting an All-American-caliber quarterback, but an experienced QB (especially one who starred when he carved up the Tide in the bowl game a year ago) might yield Jarran Reed or Jonathan Allen, who would be a huge help for Mike Stoops' D.
From @HeathEinstein: TCU or Baylor in the Big XII?
Even though the Horned Frogs are the preseason conference favorite, getting 32 first-place votes to the Bears' 10, I'm picking Baylor. The Bears will have one of the most dominant D-lines in college football led by DT Andrew Billings and DL Shawn Oakman. The O-line should be very solid, where everyone is back. I expect Seth Russell, the new QB (who does have some experience playing a few games in 2014 while Bryce Petty was dealing with an ailing back), to have a huge year. Not only does he have the O-line, but there's a lot of firepower to work with (RB Shock Linwood, WRs K.D. Cannon and Corey Coleman plus tight end Tre'Von Armstead just to call out a few). I get that the game against TCU is in Fort Worth this year (Nov. 27), but I'm going with the Bears to run the table in Big 12 this fall.
I think Gary Patterson is about as good a coach as there is when it comes to defense, but his team does have to replace six starters off last year's 12-1 team.
From @Rookmatic: UF's defense should be very good again this year, and you'd think McElwain will improve the O. Why is UF being written off?
I like the Gators' D, and I love UF's secondary. But that offense is going to be a real challenge even if Dana Holgorsen or Art Briles was coaching it. There is no depth on the O-line and minimal experience. The QB depth chart is spotty with unproven Will Grier and Treon Harris, who was OK as a freshman last year. The skill talent also is pretty underwhelming. Folks around the program expect big things from Brandon Powell, a dynamic 5-9, 185-pound sophomore wide receiver.
Optimistically, I think the Gators are looking at a 7-5 season.
From @stevemitchell75: Will other programs start using the virtual reality tech used by Stanford and will Stanford block Pac-12 teams from doing so?
Since our story on virtual reality and football, several FBS programs (Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson and Vandy) as well as the Dallas Cowboys, 49ers and a few other NFL teams have signed on with STRIVR Labs. Stanford coach David Shaw is part of STRIVR's management team and was hoping other Pac-12 programs would probably become clients later in the process.
"That would be nice (if the rest of the Pac-12 got on board later than sooner)," Shaw told me in March, "but at the same time, I also have a lot of common sense and at some point, this is going to be everywhere. It should be. It's that good, and you don't wanna contain it and you don't wanna horde it because this can help advance the sport."
From @NDFBCancun: Assuming Power 5 champs have one loss, what are the odds an 11-1 ND with a win over a conference champ makes playoff?
It certainly depends on a lot of factors, including when in the season it happened and who that one loss by ND came against. If it happened against Clemson and the Tigers go 12-1 and win the ACC, they'd trump the Irish. If one of those one-loss Power 5 champs is from the SEC, they're going in over 11-1 Notre Dame.
If the Irish win at Clemson and the Tigers have a good-but-not-great season and it's, say, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech or FSU at 12-1, there's a decent shot the Irish could be slotted ahead, if Stanford and USC have top-15 seasons. I'm not as confident the Irish would be ranked above a one-loss Big Ten or Pac-12 team. A lot will depend on what kinds of seasons USC, Stanford, Ga. Tech and Clemson have. I suspect all four will be top-25 teams, which should help ND's résumé — as would improved seasons from Pitt and Texas.
Factor all that, and I'd say it's about a 25-percent chance the Irish would get a spot in the playoff.
From @bobounds: Would take all 3 #OhioState QBs over #HailState QB Dak Prescott. #Wow
I saw Bo's tweet Thursday morning. It's in regard to something in my Ohio State vs. Alabama starting-22 breakdown, where at the end of the column, I said I'd take all three Buckeye QBs over the preseason first-team All-SEC quarterback, Dak Prescott. And, even after the news that Braxton Miller is shifting to H-back, I'd still stand by it (provided his shoulder was healthy). Remember, the guy was a two-time Big Ten MVP at quarterback. The other two Buckeyes are J.T. Barrett, who came in fifth in the Heisman running as a freshman, and Cardale Jones, who probably has the best arm in college football and beat Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon last season.
The comparisons between Prescott and the Buckeye guys are interesting considering he plays in a system for Dan Mullen, an Urban Meyer protege. Prescott's a very good college QB who is more than capable as a runner and had a 27-11 TD-INT ratio. However, against top-50 defenses (LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Ole Miss), he had just a 6-5 TD-INT ratio. In Jones' two games against top-50 defenses (Wisconsin and Alabama), his was 4-1. Barrett faced Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Va. Tech and Minnesota and was 9-6.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FOX Sports 1. He is also a New York Times Bestselling author. His new book, The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, came out in October, 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and get all of his content on Facebook.