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How Ohio State QB Braxton Miller became a wide receiver

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The workouts were a secret, but they weren't something Braxton Miller could do on his own.

Debating a change in position and in search of some help, one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Ohio State history tracked down J.T. Barrett in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and made a request that caught his teammate by surprise.

"I mentioned something to J.T., and he just looked at me and cocked his head to the side," Miller told ESPN.com. "He was just like, ‘Why?'"

There was no simple answer that Wednesday in late April, but it largely boiled down to the difficulty Miller was having regaining the strength he needed to play quarterback with a shoulder that had been surgically repaired twice. It was also due to his desire to get back on the field and contribute after missing all of last season.

If his best option wasn't going to be throwing the football, maybe he could catch it and find another way to unleash his off-the-charts athleticism.

Miller called it Plan B, and before telling the world it was in the works, he first needed to see if it was a viable option -- and that required a partner.

"It was just something he wanted to keep between us, nothing crazy," Barrett said. "Everybody saw what he did at quarterback. But then you see him on the field [at wide receiver], and it was just natural."

That first session was also enough to convince Miller that there was a future for him at a different position, and progressively the circle of trust expanded along with the number of participants in the workouts.

There had already been conversations with Urban Meyer about the move, which got the offensive-minded coach scribbling in his playbook thanks to the possibilities Miller's blend of elite speed, rapid acceleration and slippery elusiveness could provide at H-back or wide receiver. But then Miller brought guys such as safety Vonn Bell, quarterback Cardale Jones and wide receiver Michael Thomas along to late-night workouts to ramp up the transition process, all the while keeping the move confidential until he was ready to make it official.

"It stayed secret from the media, from outsiders for a minute -- a long time," Miller said with a smile. "Because you know, my main focus was playing quarterback. Coming back from my injury, the thing was, my distance on the ball wasn't all the way there yet. I was thinking about, ‘Hey, why am I still working on quarterback when I can do something else that can prepare me for the future and be the best at what my craft is?' Get the ball in my hands, make plays.

"I was just thinking that, and I came up to coach Meyer in April. 'Coach, Plan A is working but I always want a Plan B.' I'm doing my Plan B right now until my Plan A works. But you know, if it goes successfully, I'm just going to stick with this."

Miller still isn't willing to completely dismiss the possibility of his initial plan coming back into the picture, but his health was never going to be the only hurdle for him to return to the position where he was twice named Big Ten Player of the Year.

The first guy he approached to throw him passes while Miller worked on his hands and started running routes had developed into a Heisman Trophy contender in his place -- with Barrett taking over the offense and leading the Buckeyes to a division title. After Barrett was injured, Jones took the reins and finished off the run to the national championship with three victories in the postseason, stamping himself as a potential first-round NFL draft pick in the process. And after a season on the sideline, two consecutive spring camps as an observer and no promise of being able to throw the way he wanted to in training camp this month, there were plenty of potential potholes on the road to returning to quarterback.

That doesn't mean Miller was looking for the path of least resistance when plotting his comeback for the Buckeyes. But in weighing both the situation and where his best interests for the future might lie, the most logical choice became somewhat obvious.

"I gave myself a certain amount of time to figure everything out, because I knew camp was coming around, the season was coming around," Miller said. "I had been out of surgery for a long time now, and I waited six months doing quarterback stuff and meeting with [physical therapist] Kevin Wilk and Dr. [James] Andrews, checking up in the lab. But after a while, it's the deadline the next day, I've got to mark it and figure something else out. My shoulder is 100 percent, but I can't get the distance on the ball like I wanted to, so what's next?

"I really didn't know what was in my best interest, but I thought, maybe I will just play everything. I'm good enough. I know I'm good enough, I've got confidence and the first time I went out there, I surprised myself. I was like, ‘Wow, I can do this.' I just reminded myself that when I step on the field, I want to be the best player on the field. That was my determination."

It drove him through hours of work, including some days when Miller would check into the practice facility twice for extra time catching balls from a JUGS machine. It led to phone calls, texts or clandestine in-person invitations to hit the practice field for throwing sessions with those briefed on the transition. And now that camp has arrived, it has led to some hands-on attention from Meyer, a former receivers coach who has a new, gifted toy to mold into a weapon for an offense that wasn't exactly short on them in the first place.

"For the average guy, I would say it would be very uncommon to [be effective] right out of the gate," Meyer said. "He's not common though. He's one of the best athletes I've ever coached. If it's win or lose time, he's not going to lose.

"My expectation is he's an impact player."

There may still be some bumps along the way before he is a game-changer the way he used to be so consistently for the Buckeyes. Miller hasn't put on pads yet, and he indicated that the current practice plan doesn't call for him to take off a non-contact jersey until about two weeks before the opener at Virginia Tech. The view on the field is different than he's used to, and lining up in the formation is no longer as simple as stepping behind center. And based on a couple early periods in camp that included at least one notable drop, Miller is clearly not a finished product as a wideout.

But when he does get the football back in his hands, some things haven't changed a bit.

"I think people must have forgot," Barrett said. "Look, people are up with the now and it's like microwave [culture], everything is fast and in a hurry. Remember how explosive he was, how elusive he is and things like that? His quickness and all that is still there.

"People may have forgot about Braxton, but it's still all there."

The secret is out now, and a public reminder is coming soon.