The Bottom Line

By Kyle Rowland on November 12, 2012 at 10:00a

Highlight after highlight of the 2012 Ohio State football season will show spectacular plays made by quarterback Braxton Miller. The exhilarating one-yard touchdown run at Penn State, the stutter-step against Miami (Ohio) and the gazelle-like 72-yard mad dash against Nebraska. 

It's been a record-setting year for Miller.

Each play could be used to define Miller and his Heisman hopeful season. The common denominator in each of them is that they include running the football. That’s not to say Miller can’t pass, because he can, but clearly he is a run-first threat.

Perhaps no play better encapsulates that threat than his touchdown at Penn State, when he reversed five yards then put it in drive while stepping to the right and left and then leaping into the end zone.

“It wasn’t a designed quarterback read,” Miller said. “It was a jet handoff to Carlos (Hyde), and they bull-rushed. Some guy came through and hit Carlos. I just pulled it in my arm as Carlos got tackled and made some type of move and made someone miss, and I dove into the end zone.”

Some type of move indeed. 

Miller has reached the end zone 13 times on the ground and rushed for 1,166 yards. That total is most ever for an Urban Meyer-coached player. In fact, Meyer had never had a 1,000-yard rusher prior to this season.

Now he could have two on the same team. Hyde sits at 737 yards, needing to average 131.5 over the final two games to reach the millennium mark.

“I run with a passion, and I run with aggression,” Hyde said. “I run with attitude. I feel like I can’t be brought down. I run with that in my mind. That allows me to run hard.”

Together, Miller and Hyde have not been strange at all. Instead, they’ve been a perfect blend of finesse and power. The duo has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 26 touchdowns. They average more than 200 yards per game.

Miller ranks 15th nationally with 116.6 rushing yards per game and is averaging more than six yards per carry. He flashed potential of that type of production in his rookie season a year ago. Before Miller even enrolled at Ohio State the expectations were raised. Once Meyer referred to him as the most dynamic quarterback he’d ever coached, the outlook was elevated even more.

But what happened in Miller’s first game with Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman wasn’t expected. At least not out of the gate.

A single game Ohio State quarterback rushing record was attained that afternoon against Miami (Ohio). And Miller broke it again against Nebraska with 186 yards, including that 72-yarder.

Huge numbers have raised Miller’s profile.

“A lot of guys talk to me about it,” said Miller, about his Heisman status. “I try not to talk about it because I don’t really like talking about myself. I’ve just got to keep working hard and get better at what I want to get better at. Whatever happens, happens.”

The improving starts with his passing. Miller has thrown for 1,753 yards and 14 touchdowns against six interceptions. Not bad through 10 games. But he’ll be the first to diminish what he’s accomplished in the passing game, as will Meyer.

The Miller to Smith combo has lit up Big Ten scoreboards.

“We worked so hard at trying to develop a passing game, and I can't say that we did it successfully,” Meyer said after Ohio State’s 52-22 win over Illinois. “It’s still a work in progress.  We'll still working and grinding and pushing because at some point we have to be a balanced team.  We're not there yet.

“The area we're not efficient enough is the dropback pass. It's not acceptable.”

Said Miller: “I would agree. I’ve got to get better at that aspect of the game. I’m working real hard.”

Footwork is the area receiving the most attention. Miller and Herman have worked on the issue all season, but it has gained steam the past few weeks. 

“Last week I was rushing things, my feet were jittery, I was elongating on my steps,” said Miller, after completing 12 of 20 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against Illinois. “But I was compact throughout the whole week. Coach (Herman) got me together and I could tell when the ball was coming out of my hand it was going to be good.”

For Herman, the process of quieting Miller’s feet is a full-time job – literally – along with his offensive coordinator duties.

“I wish I could jump out there sometimes and stand there and hold his feet down,” he said earlier this fall. “I’ve coached mobile guys before. It’s a double-edged sword. If you tell him to slow his feet down, now you’ve taken a little bit of his escapability out of the equation. He just has to be smart when there is no pressure. We call it being sunny and clear. When there’s chaos, hey, go ahead and move around.”

Twenty-two games into his career, Miller is quickly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in program history. And the potential is there to get so much better.

“There is no ceiling,” Meyer said. “I hate to say it like this, but I’m very disappointed. He could be better than he is. But, fundamentally, he gets so tied up in knots.”

Miller has said throughout the year that he’s confident he can make defenses pay with his arm, and he’s proven it on several occasions. Late in the fourth quarter against California, he connected with Devin Smith on a 72-yard touchdown pass that served as the game-winner. Another long heave to Smith at Michigan State decided the ballgame. Smith was the recipient of two more deep balls at Indiana.

“I think we have to take shots,” Meyer said. “Defenses are forcing us to do that.”

It’s all added up to an unbelievable statistical year for Miller. His 27 total touchdowns is four shy of the Ohio State record held by Troy Smith and Bobby Hoying. Miller is also on pace to shatter the school record for total yardage per game. He’s averaging 292, 22 yards clear of the previous record set by Joe Germaine in 1998.

Smith said during the Illinois game that Miller has an opportunity to be the greatest Ohio State quarterback of them all. Coming from a guy who won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history lends credence to the discussion. And while Jim Tressel was the perfect coach for Smith, Miller was born to be tutored by Meyer.

“I think Braxton Miller is a difference maker at quarterback,” said Meyer.



Borrowed Time's picture

If Braxton can pass the ball like Manziel does, he will be unstoppable. Braxton is clearly the better runner than Manziel, but Manziel is also clearly the better passer. 
If Braxton can exhibit the same type of touch (to complement his bullets) like Manziel did in dropping those two long balls against Bama, there really is no ceiling. There just needs to be more consistency. Brax has shown the potential and the ability to drop balls right above coverage, but has not done it often enough.

bigbill992001's picture

Did you see Manziel's run for a TD?    Very Braxtonesqe.

CCatanzaro's picture

Excellent read, the end of this season has really snuck up on me, I can't believe it will be over in a couple of weeks!  For Miller to be in the same category as Smith and Hoying as a sophomore is downright scary.  

Dairy-fed intellect and pure, unhinged sass.


GoBucks713's picture

One has to think that Braxton's numbers would be even better if it weren't for so many dropped balls too. The receivers are still improving. If he and the receivers both improve at the rate that try are, this offense is going to be amazing over the next two seasons. This team will only go as far as Braxton's feet will take them, weather it be running, or setting for a pass. 

-The Aristocrats!

Ahh Saturday's picture

I think the key word in describing Miller's passing is inconsistent.  He has shown the ability to make nearly any pass you would want a QB to make.  He's shown strength, touch, and accuracy, but he's also shown the ability to miss open receivers, throw balls in the dirt, or ten yards out of bounds. Basically, he can make any pass Manziel can make, but to this point, he can not be relied on to make those passes.  If/when Braxton gains that consistency, then watch out.

btalbert25's picture

I think that's what is telling about Meyer's comments.  Braxton has no ceiling.  Watching Manziel play, and he's doing very well, is there really any improvements he can make on his game?  I know he's a RS Freshman, but I can't possibly imagine he'll really improve that much over the next couple of years.
I don't know that Braxton will ever match his passing ability, but if he can get in the conversation along with his running ability it's really going to be something to see.

btalbert25's picture

You know, he had to learn a lot last year in Spring and Fall practices.  Just grasping the new system was a lot to take in so working on fundamentals probably was put on the backburner.  This off season a lot of tim and effort will be put into fixing his fundamentals.  I expect game one next season we'll see a much much better passer.

Ashtabula's picture

As far as next year's championship run is concerned, this year's bowl ban is a huge hinderance.  During bowl practices, these fundamentals like his throwing mechanics can be worked on.  Plus, a lot of the younger players get the coaching they need in order to become contributers the next season.  Not having these practices will place more responsibility on the players themselves to work on the fundamentals. 

thatlillefty's picture

Absolutely... missing those bowl practices will hurt. As will the departure of seniors like John Simon who really seemed to lead in the offseason, by taking youner players like Shazier with him to the weight room. Just gotta hope new players step up and these kids stay hungry.

btalbert25's picture

I get it, more practice is always a good thing, but I really don't think missing those practices are going to be make or break for a title run next year.  It would be nice for the young LB's to get some extra work so they are getting more reps, but overall I don't put as high of a value on the bowl practices as everyone else.  At the end of the day, it's 12 practices.  Sure improvements are made, and the coaches always say they are very important, but that's because a coach is always going to put a high value on extra practice time. We've seen Ohio State teams improve, stay the same, and look worse after having those 12 extra practices in recent years. 
Braxton is probably going to have a list of things to work on, but I'm confident that Spring Practice and fall camp will provide him more than enough time to work on some fundamentals. 

timdogdad's picture

right, is there a rule against braxton and the receivers working on passing over the winter? like in a gym? or just braxton throwing to a target? or can he not touch a football until a certain point in time? 

thatlillefty's picture

pretty sure they can do whatever they want, just not with the supervision of coaching staff

Ashtabula's picture

And we all know how motivated we are when our boss isn't around...imagine being a 20 year old.  Plus, these type of mechanics are very difficult to practice on your own. 

yrro's picture

Is there anything that says a player can't hire a QB coach on his dime during the offseason?

timdogdad's picture

ncaa rule 232,195  section 25,000 page  567,  no quarterback shall throw or actually touch said football from january 15 until march 1.  any nerf or itza footballs that are christmas gifts of younger brothers or nephews are acceptable.......   and then u tube is full of scandalous handling of a real ncaa football.... 

chitown buckeye's picture

Hey, He will be hangin out with Tebow in the off season. Dont worry his mechanics will improve!;)

"I'm having a heart attack!"

rkylet83's picture

It is very rare, almost unheard of to have an athlete with the abilities and potential of Braxton Miller.  There are no incorrectable weaknesses.  His passing strength and form are top caliber and his running and cutting abilities are unmatched in college football.  
I am usually not a glass half full kind of guy, but I think the next two years for other B1G teams are going to be absolutely brutal.  Once Braxton can pass efficiently and effectively there will be no way to stop us.  Imagine what kind of running lanes he's (and our RB's) going have when defenses can't fathom stacking the box because their terrified of getting picked apart!  Fun to think about!   

Conroy's picture

The thing that has impressed me the most about Braxton is his arm strength.  Pryor had a great arm, but he rarely ripped the ball because he was so inaccurate.  When Miller throws the ball downfield, it flys out of his hand.

Doc's picture

“I hate to say it like this, but I’m very disappointed. He could be better than he is. But, fundamentally, he gets so tied up in knots.”

Thanks video coordinator for this!  Having NO coaching last year didn't help either.  Braxton lost an entire year of his development.

"Say my name."

chitown buckeye's picture

So Much this!^^ Ive been saying it for a while, along with others, he is basically a freshman this year! The only thing last year did for him was maybe weight train and getting a feel for the speed of the game as compared to high school! What a wasted year!
Edit: Forgot, he also spent time learning an offense that has been irrelevent since 1960.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

Earle's picture

Manziel has an amazing feel for the passing game and throws the ball with great touch and accuracy. I'm not sure we'll ever see that from Braxton. Miller is a much better and more instinctual runner (know I am speaking the obvious here). But Brax doesn't need to be a great passer. He just needs to be good enough to keep defenses from putting 8 (or 9) guys in the box every play.

He will get there. I think it is a testament to him and the offensive coaching staff (and C. Hyde) that we are sitting at 10-0 with the passing game where it is. Just 2 more games to find a way to win!

Conroy's picture

Ugh.  I down voted this but meant to up vote it.  We should make the voting system more reddit like.

Earle's picture

Ha! No worries.  Just figured I might have offended a hyper-sensitive Braxton supporter with the Manziel comparison.

Conroy's picture

Hopefully Braxton can come out of the bye week hot because he's going to have to play his best games yet to get wins @Wisconsin and vs. Michigan.  

buckeye76BHop's picture

^^^^^^Agreed...Wisky's defense may be better than MSU's.  We'll see if he passes better bc I have a feeling they're going to try to stop the run by overloading the box with 8 and possibly 9.

"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 

buckeye76BHop's picture

Smith said during the Illinois game that Miller has an opportunity to be the greatest Ohio State quarterback of them all. Coming from a guy who won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history lends credence to the discussion. And while Jim Tressel was the perfect coach for Smith, Miller was born to be tutored by Meyer.

This coming from Troy is why I feel many that are "banking" on Miller coming back for his Senior year may want to recognize what he's doing already in his Sophomore season.  To say he won't leave early is a joke IMHO.  He's going to be OSU's leading statistical QB by the time his JR year is over (not to mention possible Heisman this and next year as well as a potential of a NC next year).  I want him to stay more than anything...but the only way he comes back is if something shakes lose and he gets second in both of those aforementioned aspects.

"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 

yrro's picture

His passing is going to need to be light years better for him to leave early as a quarterback. His running ability is only the smallest of considerations in the NFL.
Does anyone know - is he actually 6'2", or is that a classic athletic rounding error?

Ashtabula's picture

Currently, he is not on the radar as a NFL QB.  Hopefully improvement is made over the next couple of years with his throwing, but I'd be shocked if he was ever anything more than a 4th rounder.  He fits the mold of a back-up QB that can provide a spark and can be used in some wildcat packages.  He isn't leaving early unless he gets HORRIBLE advice.  Of course, if he wants to enter the draft as a receiver/kick returner... 

RBuck's picture

I can see Brax (or even Pryor) as a Randell-El type.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

osubuckeye4life's picture

I'm sad that I only get to see two more games this year of one of the most electrifying players in the game.
I can't wait to see Xbrax360's improvement from this year to next.
Anyone know off hand what the most yards he has passed for so far? Which game did he set that mark?

bigbill992001's picture

I havent heard anything about Pryor, what's he up to?