Braxton Miller Goes to School

By Kyle Rowland on August 30, 2012 at 10:00a

Urban Meyer has used the term “caged tiger” repeatedly when describing how his starting quarterback, Braxton Miller, feels in fall practice with a black jersey on. 

An up-tempo offense has Miller at ease.

It is also an apt description for Miller’s entire freshman season. He led the team in rushing with 715 yards, but even then his full complement of skills weren’t showcased in the Buckeyes’ antiquated offense.

Not until late in the season did Miller finally become comfortable. By then it was too late for Ohio State to salvage a season that began spinning out of control before Miller even arrived in Columbus as a ballyhooed freshman, the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback recruit.

A year later, now running a system similar to the one that made him an Ohio high school legend, Miller finally feels at home.

“I just feel like myself,” he said.

“I'm just a little bit older, more mature and more of a leader. It's a different type of offense, so it's going to be a whole lot of different things happening.”

Since Miller committed to Ohio State, the only school he realistically considered, fans have clamored for the dynamic passer and runner that led Huber Heights Wayne to the brink of a state championship.

The plan all along was for Miller to ascend to the starting job this season, in 2012. There was a slight detour, however, and he was thrown into a three-ring circus once career backup Joe Bauserman’s play diminished after starting the season’s first three games.

Meyer has been familiar with Miller since his high school days and was in Ohio Stadium for Miller’s debut in last season’s opener versus Akron while working for ESPN. And the then-broadcaster didn’t hide his feelings, saying Miller would have been starting on his team. But he also issued stern words for the then-true freshman about his body language and actions on the sideline, which included being headset-less.

A completion percentage of 54.1 percent and 1,159 passing yards – the 115th-ranked passing unit in the country – left plenty of room for improvement, that of a 30,000 square-foot empty house. The potential was still evident, and Meyer didn’t temper his excitement when he first spoke of Miller at his introductory press conference.

“I just met Braxton, and I wanted to meet Braxton,” Meyer said. “That was very important. All due respect to everybody in this room, but that was the highlight of my day. Sitting there shaking hands with that good-looking quarterback with a nice smile and a very humble player. I watched him play throughout the year. I've watched him compete in the big game. And to tell you I'm excited to coach him, I'm not using the correct adjectives. Because there's mixed company around, I'm not going to use the correct adjectives with how excited I am.

Meyer is pleased with his QB's evolution.

“I think Braxton Miller is a difference maker at quarterback. You can build a team around what I saw.”

Immediately, Miller’s evolution became Meyer’s No. 1 project.

A little more than nine months after those statements, Meyer will hand the keys to his Corvette – the Ohio State offense – to Miller, who is no-longer a 16-year-old that just passed his driver’s test. The head coach is trusting his driver to avoid speed bumps and potholes along a 12-game – or mile – stretch that includes many possible pitfalls.

Miller has felt bottled up in August practices, but he also said the limitations put on his scrambling have made him a better quarterback, both throwing the ball and making reads.

Footwork also was an area that brought along bad habits for Miller. Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Herman helped iron some of those kinks out, though they still creep in every now and again. Compared to last season, though, the coaching staff is pleased with Miller’s progression.

“He's a lot more confident,” Herman said. “You can see a little bounce in his step. He certainly still has a long way to go, but you can tell he's studied in the offseason and worked with his wideouts, and that's paid dividends.”

Eighteen to 20 passes is the ideal number of attempts per game, according to Miller, and it matches up with the numbers Tim Tebow put up during Florida’s national championship season of 2008. Tebow attempted 21.2 passes per game, but instead of a traditional runner like the Buckeyes have with Carlos Hyde, the Gators relied heavily on Tebow and wide receiver Percy Harvin for rushing yards.

Five to 10 passing plays per game will turn into runs and there will also be designed quarterback runs sprinkled into the offense. Meyer says the Buckeyes power-spread will be balanced, with the running plays possibly having a 60/40 advantage.

The gameplan will likely fluctuate based on the opponent and the defensive sets Ohio State faces. But it is clear Meyer believes Miller will handle the myriad challenges that await him with poise.

“Braxton has come a million miles,” Meyer said. “I think he's fairly comfortable. Our goal is to make him not an athlete playing quarterback but a quarterback that's very athletic.”

A trait that makes Miller all the more valuable is his leadership, something he struggled with last season. When he enrolled at Ohio State, starting as a true freshman was near zero percent while redshirting seemed likely. Leading an offense full of veterans, many of which were seniors, was a hard task.

Leak and Miller are on the same path, according to Meyer.

"I was just coming in as a freshman, and it's kind of hard to get the upperclassmen to understand where you're coming from," Miller said.

Said Meyer: “That’s not an excuse. It's real. You look at the evolution of Braxton Miller, he came in spring practice to be behind Terrelle Pryor, and all of a sudden, bang, that's gone. So I wouldn't say that's an excuse. That's absolutely real. True freshmen are hard to lead. I've never had a true freshman come in and lead a team. It's really hard to do.”

Soft-spoken and barely audible during interviews, Miller has embraced his role as the offensive field general. He’s more comfortable in his surroundings on and off the field and has left his growing pains behind. In the huddle, Miller is now more likely to point something out to a receiver or ask a lineman why a defensive end was barreling down on him. 

“Braxton's getting more vocal,” wide receiver Philly Brown said. “That was basically his main thing last year. He's a quiet person in general, but on the field this year he's more vocal. He's turning into a leader right in front of everybody's eyes.”

The process has been similar to the one Meyer viewed when he took over the Florida program in 2005. Quarterback Chris Leak was the most prolific quarterback in high school history but was coming off two so-so seasons as the Gators’ starter.

Under Meyer, Leak developed into a two-time captain and national champion-winning quarterback.

“Chris Leak was a guy that didn't lead very much,” Meyer said. “When we got down there, he just finished his sophomore year. He was a very good passer, but not a very good leader. Chris will tell you that. 

“But he became a good leader and won a national championship. So I would say Braxton Miller, this is not throwing Braxton underneath the bus, it's just what I saw.

"There wasn't a whole lot of leadership between him and the receivers. Not a whole lot of relationship there and now it's a much different animal.”

Asked how often he and Meyer discuss leadership, Miller said “every day” without hesitation.

On Saturday, Miller will give his new head coach and harshest critic the first glimpse into whether he has what it takes to lead the Buckeyes to greatness.


Comments Show All Comments

painterlad's picture

The one thing that worries me about Meyer's offense is that it requires an excellent running QB. It doesn't matter if our QB can throw like Payton Manning if he can't run. Obviously Miller can run with the ball and I expect awesome things from him for the next three years, but what happens if we don't have that dual threat?
That being said, I can't wait to witness the can of whoop ass the Buckeyes are going to open up on people. The days of sitting on a 14 point halftime lead are over. Imagine going for it on fourth and inches, or doing something-anything!-other than a run up the middle on first down. No matter what Ike brings to our Ohio sky this saturday, the future is looking oh so very bright.
Can a brother get an amen!!!

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

thorvath22's picture

Good point however this is also Tom Herman's offense so I think that would help adjustment to a soso athletic qb ...I would hope Meyer has here to recrui the style qb he needs, he already has JT Barret and Cardale Jones as young athletic qbs waiting in the wings.

slippy's picture

Chris Leak was not an excellent running QB.

OSUBias's picture

Over the long run, I think this offense does better with a running QB, however...
41-14. Chris Leak behind center for most of the game, rushed for 7 yards on 3 attempts. But he completed 25-36 for 213 yards and the rest of the team rushed well. He was not much of a running threat but got the job done in that offense.
And Amen!

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

btalbert25's picture

Listenning to Meyer talk about Miller, I get a sense that he believes Miller has the potential to be  the best QB he's ever coached.

pcon258's picture

i know there's alot of tebow hate out there, but tebow was probably the greatest college football qb of all time. for meyer to even consider that the potential is there for braxton to be better, wow, im speechless

William's picture

What? He was good, but the greatest in CFB history? What about Frazier, Ward, Staubach, Plunkett, McMahon, Elway, Marino or Baugh?

BrewstersMillions's picture

I can't stand the media buzz the guy gets as a pro, but I'm on board. If someone undertook the task of making an all time, first team NCAA football squad, Timmy T is on your 2 deep. HAS to be. His numbers in the SEC are just jaw dropping. The rushing and passing stats are insane. He, like those guys listed, all played in offenses suited to their strengths and few excelled like Tebow. Check the stats man. Numbers don't lie. Timmy's got the numbers and accolades to go toe to toe with any of those guys-and may have done it (Swallows hard) against the best competition out of anyone on that list.

painterlad's picture

Tebow was a quarterback only in the sense that he lined up directly behind the center. Tebow was nothing more than a bruising fullback that was occasionally required to throw a five-yard slant, much like Robinson is a skinny return man required to throw an occasional interception. Now Tebow was the absolute "QB" for Meyer's offense, but I wouldn't say he was even the best QB in Florida's history, let alone college history.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

William's picture

Wuerffel or Spurrier could make that claim. Although I disagree about your stance on Tebow, he threw plenty of stuff besides slants. The guy was a QB that ran like a fullback.

Conroy's picture

You could say the exact same thing about a guy like Tommie Frazier or Eric Crouch.  Tebow won a Heisman and was a two time runner up, started for one national championship team and was a key reserve for another, and won a Sugar Bowl to top off his career.  

btalbert25's picture

Tebow was a terrific college football player and I won't take anything away from him there, but I'm not even sure he was better than players who were similar to him.  If I had to pick a QB in his style, I'm taking Vince Young(Who willed his teams to victory just as much as Tebow) or Cam Newtown. 
I never put much stock in him being the greatest college player ever and all that.  He was very good, certainly one of the best during his tenure.  He's a legendary player I'm not slighting him at all, but there have been other guys who piled up a lot of accomplishments too.  Matt Leinart damn near won 2 Heisman awards, so did Reggie Bush.  Jason White won one and was a finalist a 2nd time.  So, again, not slighting the kid, he was a great college player but even in his own era or generation there were guys who accomplished a lot that didn't get the press Tebow did.

BrewstersMillions's picture

661\995 9285 yards. 88\16 TD\INT ratio. %66 passer. 692 carries for 2900 yards and 57 TDs.
I dare anyone to find anyone close to those. 2 national titles, 1 Heisman, 3rd and 5th in Heisman voting two other years as a starter.
He also did it consistently for three years. Newton was one year, Young stuggled mightily until his final season. I don't like Tebow-or the cult around him but he suprassed all of his peers. He lapped most of them.
1 in 11 plays Tim Tebow was involved in ended in a touchdown...

painterlad's picture

I understand that passing yards are passing yards, but if the pass goes 10 yards and the receiver runs  for another 50, the QB gets credit for 60 yards passing. I'm going to guess that out of the 9285 yards passing he has, at least 7500 were gained after the catch. He seldom had to throw a long pass, as is demonstrated by his throwing motion and inaccuracy. Now I will give him mad props for being a freaking tank when running the ball and for his leadership skills, but his "quarterbacking" leaves a lot to be desired.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

BrewstersMillions's picture

You can say that about any QB though. Its not Tebow's fault he had a coach who had a system perfect for him. He still has to succeed in it. 16 INT's in 900 plus throws. I don't care how many dump offs you have-that's near perfect over the course of a 3.5 year career.

painterlad's picture

That's true. I mean, Eli Manning wears two Super Bowl rings because two different receivers made unreal catches. Yes, Tebow was almost designed for the Meyer system, but having to dink and dunk down the field is a staple of Northwestern football as well, and I don't think their QBs, while very efficient, are considered great. Great in that system perhaps, but not great overall.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

pcon258's picture

yes, tebow benefitted from the system that he was in, there is no doubt about that. but so does every great player. do you think any less of archie griffin because he had a coach who ran the ball all the time? Do you fault him for having a great offensive line? Certainly not. I don't think tebow is the best football player of all time, but in terms of his impact on that team for his time there, i think its unmatched 

btalbert25's picture

Do you really give him credit for both national titles?  I mean Chris Leake won that first one, Tebow was there. I also think his senior season the Heisman votes and invitation as a finalist were largely because of all the media talking about him Willing his team to victory. It was like a lifetime achievement award.  I though him being named a finalist screwed a very deserving CJ Spiller out of a trip to New York personally.  Again, I'm not saying he wasn't great, but if I had to pick 1 of the QB's I mentioned to lead my team for one game, he's probably the 3rd guy I pick.
He put up amazing stats to be sure, but Cam Newton's one year, was more impressive than any season I ever saw Tebow put up, and based on what he did in the NFL last year, I tend to think had he stayed around another year he would of been even more impressive(if he was elligible of course).
I'm not disputing life time stats, I'm just saying of players I watched play, I'll take the best of other players than the best of Tebow.  Career Stats and lifetime acheivement of course he's going to rank higher and have a more impressive list of accomplishments, he was a starter for 3 years. 

BrewstersMillions's picture

Did I? I said he has two-which he does. He played a part in the first one-8 rushing TD's and 5 passing TD's. Regardless of how or why he got to NY-which is opinion-he was there-which is fact. I hate being in these positions of defending a guy I don't care for but I can recognize greatness when I see it. A lot of the anti Tebow stuff is based on things other than his play. His numbers are insane, his accolades and awards are trumped by none. I'm sorry but the guy is one of the best to ever play 'amateur' football.

btalbert25's picture

I never said he wasn't great, and his career stats were amazing.  The problem is, the next guy who has a great year or a couple of great years in a row will be the media's next "greatest player ever".  I'm simply pointing out that while he had a great career, there are other players who I would have selected instead of Tebow or would of been just as happy leading my team as Tebow.  I also think over different eras and across different systems it is hard to compare players as to who is better than others. 

yrro's picture

You can't give him credit for two national titles as a quarterback. The first one he was a special purpose fullback and nothing else. For the second, he deserves all he gets, but the dude has enough real accolades without tossing him extra ones.

The Vest-er's picture

I was just having this same discussion with a fsu fan who was quite vocal in his opposition to Tim Tebow being the greatest college football player of all time. I told him the best college player I ever saw play was Tommie Frazier (I'm 32) and tt was just a bit behind him.
I hope you're right about Braxton. Has all the tools. Hope he puts it together.

Fundamentals are a crutch for the talentless.

buckeye76BHop's picture

Braxton's faster than Tim...that's what will make him better.  Not to mention he's got a quicker release as well as more accurate than he was a year ago.  I still think his Jr and Sr years (bc he'll be coming back) will be the defining moments for Braxton "Jerry Curl" Miller.  Meyer also recruited Brax while he was coaching at FL.  
Nice article Kyle...

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

cinserious's picture

The correct adjective to describe urb's excitement over miller had there not been mixed company wasmore like: "F__K YEAH!"

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Maestro's picture

Miller is a bad ass.  The only thing that can keep him from finishing in the top 3 for the Heisman this year or next is injuries.  In this offense his numbers will be ridiculous.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeyejason's picture

He's not beating these guys out this year for the heisman.
Matt Barkely, Monte Ball, Lattimore, Sammy Watkins, Denard Robinson, Robert Woods, D'Atnhony Thomas, Oklahomas QB? Taj Boyd...
Dont forget there's a lot of players that put up ridiculous numbers..not to mention they aren't learning new offenses, on probation, etc.
I do agree that he'll have a great shot next year.


buckeye76BHop's picture

Not this year...but don't sleep on him in 2013 and especially 2014.  Pretty sure you can take it to the bank if you look at other play makers as of right now.  He'll be up there J...just not this year, that you're right about fo sho.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Buckeyejason's picture

I agree, not doubting him in 2013 or 2014..I think he needs a year in this offense to get confident. He'll have all his WR's back next year(hopefully), Hyde, pretty much his whole o-line(except for Fragel) and and a stout defense to give him many offensive oppurtunites .


Cobrakai's picture

"A little more than nine months after those statements, Meyer will hand the keys to his Corvette – the Ohio State offense – to Miller, who is no-longer a 16-year-old that just passed his driver’s test."
This wouldn't be my first choice of of cars to compare the offense to, last years offense was about as exciting as a Toyota Corrolla.  Hopefully Urban can at least get us to something like a Acura TL this year. 

cplunk's picture

Corollas are much more dependable than last year's offense, and when they had a problem it was accidently acelerating. That certainly wasnt an issue in last year's offense.

avail31678's picture

Yeah, but I don't think the author was comparing LAST year's offense to a says  "hand the keys to HIS Corvette" (emphasis added).  Urban's offense is the Corvette. 
Understand your point, though.  Let's hope for a Corvette!

RBuck's picture

On Saturday we'll see Braxton taking Miami to school.

Long live the southend.

mclovin's picture

Anybody catch what they said in that coaches meeting on the All-access?  Herman said that Miller was starting to be too self-conscious regarding the mechanics they had been working on with him.  To the point where it was becoming counter-productive.  Herman said you reach a point where you stop trying to fix it and start learning to live with it. 
That doesn't make me confident that Braxton is going to become a fluent passer this year, but I don't think that will necessarily hurt what we'll be able to do offensively, because he is such a great runner.  But I think it does mean we're going to see some more floppy passes.   

johnny11's picture

I like that your pointing that out, but if you look at miller its not his upper body mechanics that need work. He really does have an excelent quick and compact release. The issue is his feet getting set properly to make the throw correctly. That was also at the beginning of camp. I also watched the BTN preview on our boys and they mentioned how well he looked in his mechanics and ball placement.

sdalbright67's picture

I believe that people give to much credit for Tebow's success to Tebow. He did his job ...sure....however, he benefitted greatly from the style of play (Meyer and Coaches), and from the players around him. How many games did the defense pull out for the Gators?

buckeye76BHop's picture

Indeed...just look at his play in the NFL.  He relies on playmakers around him...where as Braxton is the playmaker and not just by bulling over ppl.  Or this play which I still hate to this day, the run & jump throw...meh.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

"Only I can be referenced when using tOSU QB and Corvette in the same sentence." Signed, Terrelle Pryor.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

ARMYBUCK's picture

"Only I can be referenced when using tOSU QB and horrible footwork and never getting my feet set in the same sentence."
Signed, Terrelle Pryor.