BALTIMORE — Michael Jordan. Drew Brees. Bo Jackson. Charles Barkley. Tom Brady. Rob Gronkowski. Adrian Peterson. Albert Pujols and Roger Clemens.
That is an impressive list of athletes. And one of the things they share in common is that all of them have been operated on by Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery to repair Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller’s throwing shoulder on Tuesday.
The 72-year-old Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon with clinics in Pensacola, Fla., and Birmingham, Ala., might be the most recognized name in American medicine.
Even casual sports fans know the name. Athletes swear by him. He is the gold standard. He might even be their favorite Andrews over Erin Andrews. Especially if they get hurt.
Andrews, a former SEC champion in the pole vault, told Sports Illustrated in 2010 that he got a love of sports from his father, a track coach, and his love of medicine from a grandfather who was a small town doctor.
From an early age he knew he wanted to combine sports and medicine.
But it wasn’t until Clemens came to him for a second opinion on a sore shoulder in 1986 when he was with the Boston Red Sox that his career really took off.
Eight months after Andrews performed arthroscopic surgery and designed a rehabilitation plan, Clemens struck out 20 batters in a game. Other athletes took notice. Clemens endorsed him to whoever would listen. And the rest is history.
Miller’s injury ended his season. It could be 10 months to a year until his shoulder returns to full strength. Even Dr. Andrews can’t advance that time table.
So, going into today’s season opener against Navy in Baltimore, Ohio State probably wishes Andrews could perform surgery to transplant some confidence into J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman quarterback who will replace Miller. And while he was at it, maybe he could implant confidence in Barrett into his teammates.
Despite the Buckeyes’ public expressions of faith in their new quarterback, you know they have to be wondering how the season will play out with Barrett taking Miller’s place.
Navy was 9-4 last season, including a win in the Armed Forces Bowl. Its quarterback Keenan Reynolds rushed for 1,346 yards, second among NCAA Division I quarterbacks, and ran for 31 touchdowns. He also passed for 1,057 yards.
Reynolds was intercepted only twice last season, though that low number was helped by the fact he averaged only 10 passes a game.
The Midshipmen’s quirky triple-option offense can turn a football game into a game of keep away. They keep the ball as long as they continue picking up first downs, which limits the opposition’s possessions
Relying mostly on their running game, they averaged 33.5 points and 411.3 yards total offense per game in 2013.
That style puts pressure on Navy’s opponents to avoid mistakes. So, the obvious plan for Ohio State would be to put Barrett into low-risk situations, get the ball to playmakers like running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receivers Devin Smith and Dontre Wilson, or maybe to some untested but highly anticipated players like receiver Jalin Marshall and running back Curtis Samuel.
Defensively, if the Buckeyes’ line lives up to its reputation, it should control the line of scrimmage.
The group under the most pressure on defense is probably the linebackers, who will have to contend with Reynolds and a solid group of running backs if the line doesn’t stop them cold. If the linebackers struggle, as they did quite a few times last year, it would not be a good sign for the short term or long term.
Ohio State’s secondary was its biggest defensive liability last year. But its bigger tests will come later against teams which throw the ball more often.
With Miller in the lineup, this probably would have been a no-doubter. OSU has only one more question mark than it did before he was lost for the season. But quarterback is a very big question.
Barring a total disintegration by Ohio State’s offense, though, it’s not a big enough question to allow Navy to pull a legendary upset.
The prediction: Ohio State 31, Navy 14.