The good news about being a freshman quarterback on the Ohio State football team in 2020 is that there is already an established starter in Justin Fields, so the learning process can be allowed to breathe a little bit.
The better news, however, is that neither of the Buckeyes’ two freshmen quarterbacks have to take the relaxed route if they don’t want to.
Both quarterbacks — Jack Miller and CJ Stroud — have enrolled early and are in the middle of winter workouts right now, which doesn’t exactly scream that they were looking for a relaxing environment.
For Miller, the decision to enroll early was a no-brainer because it provides such an advantage in preparing for the season and getting accustomed to life on campus.
“It’s huge, really just to get developed and really just learn the playbook and start understanding everything that’s going on around me for sure. And really just develop as a player and a person,” he said.
Right now, players begin the day with workouts, then they go to class, then they’re back at the football facility for meetings or film work or whatever else their daily regimen calls for. Then, when all of that’s done, they’ll head home.
But that still isn’t the end of the work. At least not for Miller.
“Yeah, I spend every single night — I’ll get in bed at like 8:00 and probably study [the playbook] for a couple hours,” he said. “I mean, it’s a pretty huge playbook and there’s a lot of different things that go with it. So, it’s definitely gonna take some time to get down but with some time it’ll be fine.”
Given the work involved, it might seem odd to think that Miller has been looking forward to this from the first time he ever spoke with Buckeye head coach Ryan Day. Except back then, Day was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
That’s when he knew Ohio State was the place for him.
“Right after my first conversation with Coach Day,” Miller said. “I think he really just kind of made a really good first impression on me and my family and made me feel super comfortable. I just knew after talking to him, this was the place from me.”
Miller committed to Ohio State in July of 2018, just a couple of months prior to his junior season at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona.
When Miller committed, he was ranked the No. 3 pro-style passer in the 2020 class and the No. 47 player overall. A knee injury shortened his junior season and shoulder issues hampered his combine circuit last summer and also cut into his senior season.
By the time the final rankings were rolled out this month, Miller finished as the No. 13 pro-style passer in the class and the No. 332 player overall.
“There were a lot of ups and downs for me, getting hurt in the second game, separating my shoulder. I feel like when I came back, we were on fire and we ended up losing to a top-10 team in the country, so I feel like it ended pretty well,” he said. “I mean, we left our mark on Chaparral for sure.”
Miller heard what people were saying about him when he was injured. They doubted his ability to return from the separated shoulder. Just as people doubted him when he wasn’t able to thrive on the camp circuit due to shoulder issues.
All of it drove him to return as quickly as possible in order to finish his senior season on his terms.
“I just took everything personally,” he said. “People can say whatever they want about me. I don’t care, but I’m gonna go out there, I’m gonna do me and I’m gonna get the job done. So that’s it. Just take that personally and that kind of fueled me. I knew I was going to get back. People said I wasn’t going to be able to get back for four months and I ended up getting back in six weeks. So I mean, yeah, it just fueled me.”
Even now, completely healthy and full go, those emotions and that desire to get back on the field continue to motivate him.
“Yeah for sure. I definitely feel that way,” he said. “Even my junior season I got hurt. I tore my MCL, so really I haven’t played a whole lot of football these last two years and it’s kind of all getting bottled up and I’m just ready to go.”
Some athletes would grow angry at the injuries and the doubt, but Miller only ever used it as motivation. And through it, he gained new perspective.
“No, I just love playing football and it got taken away from me,” he said. “So I know how much it means to me and how much I really love playing football. Now I know not to take anything for granted and just cherish every single moment and work your tail off.”