The Big Warmup

By Kyle Rowland on December 5, 2012 at 10:00a
36 Comments

Braxton Miller is not going to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. That fact has rankled some Buckeye fans, but Miller’s November numbers all but eliminated him for the Heisman race. What they didn’t do, however, is diminish what he accomplished throughout Ohio State’s 12-0 season. 

Urban Meyer's trust in Braxton Miller grew on a weekly basis.

What Miller did in 2012 was rewrite the Ohio State record book. And that was only with eight months of preparation in head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman’s system. Imagine what Miller can do with an entire offseason of already being acclimated with the nuances of the up-tempo spread offense.

All the sophomore did was set the school record for total yards in a season with 3,310. That total came by way of 2,039 passing yards and an Ohio State quarterback record 1,271 rushing yards. Twice Miller set the single-game school record for rushing yards by a quarterback. It stands at 186 yards, a total acheived against Nebraska.

Miller averaged more than 275 total yards per game and was responsible for 28 touchdowns – 15 throwing and 13 rushing. For his efforts, Miller was named the Big Ten’s offensive player and quarterback of the year. But controversially, he was only named first-team by the media. The coaches opted to go with Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez.

“I’m achieving my goals,” Miller said. “I still haven’t reached them yet. I still have a lot to work on.

“I am very thankful for the coaches we have and for their working so hard with us.”

Week after week, Miller put up eye-popping numbers. But in November, a month that acts as a weekly playoff for Heisman contenders, he never had a signature performance.

Wisconsin limited the dual-threat signal-caller to 48 yards rushing, while Michigan held Miller to just 57 yards on 20 carries. Ohio State did win both games, however, to finish an unpredictable unbeaten season.

Texas A&M’s dynamic freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is the odds-on-favorite to win the Heisman. Miller is currently fifth among the more than 100 ballots that stiffarmtrophy.com has tabulated.

All season Miller acted aloof to his building individual status, instead choosing to focus on the team. In mid-October, when he was told about his budding Heisman candidacy, Miller seemed unaware that his production was out of the ordinary. Most players across the country play the team-first game, but with Miller it seems genuine.

Whether it it passing...

“Man, it’s tough,” he said about the attention he received. “A lot of guys come to me about it. I try not to talk about it because I don’t really like talking about myself.”

He will have to get used to, because he’ll be a preseason Heisman favorite next season, and while Miller himself might not be heartbroken about his perceived snub, Meyer, a master motivator, will almost certainly nudge Miller about his lack of inclusion with college football’s elite.

“His accuracy and passing has a long way to go, but it has improved,” Meyer said. “His comfort in the pocket has a long way to go, but it has improved. Pocket awareness and comfort throwing the ball, I don’t see the ceiling yet.”

After a freshman year that offered so much promise, Miller entered Year 2 with high expectations. But the reality was he had an entirely new offensive coaching staff working with him. In spring practice, it took longer than expected for the Ohio State offense to become familiar with the system. Meyer went as far to refer to the offense as a “clown show.”

But Miller made progress throughout the spring and spent the summer working with the entire offense to improve the Buckeyes’ on-field product. When fall camp convened, Meyer realized his quarterback had grown up. The bashful Braxton Miller was at thing of the past.

“I think he’s one of those freaks of nature that has a lot of ability and great things can happen to him,” Meyer said.

Where Meyer’s quarterbacks separate themselves from the rest is with their legs. The ability to run and throw at a high level at that position has been a big contributor in Meyer enjoying so much success as a head coach.

During his days as a wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, Meyer learned the various elements of his offense and decided that’s what would give him the best chance to win. He won big immediately, and nothing has changed.

At the heart of that is the quarterback. Despite Miller’s superb rushing statistics, few of those yards came on scrambles, according to Meyer. For quarterbacks, scrambling is an art that can cause blown plays to be game changers – in a good way.

...or running, Miller has the required ammo.

“As athletic as he is, he’s not a great scrambler,” Meyer said. “I’m going to do a study, I don’t think he had any yards this year scrambling. It was all runs. That’s something we’re going to work on. When it’s open, take it.”

Miller took it all right, setting numerous school quarterback rushing records. He also became the first 1,000-yard rusher at any position under Meyer. But Miller is more Troy Smith than Terrelle Pryor. Throwing is as much a part of Miller’s overall game than gaining yards with his gazelle-like legs.

Whereas a majority of dual-threat quarterbacks struggle with mechanics, Miller possesses a strong arm and natural release. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s more interested in finding receivers than moving the chains by running.

“When it’s an open field and I’m rolling out, I’m still looking for somebody down field to get open,” Miller said. “I’m looking to throw the ball before I’m running.”

But it’s the throwing game where Miller has the most room for improvement. His numbers were impressive – he completed 58 percent of his passes and only threw six interceptions in 254 attempts. Still, Meyer isn’t about to call Miller a finished product.

“Our quarterback was not the best fundamental quarterback in America, so Tom Herman and I are going to have a chat,” Meyer said. “That’s his job to explain to my why it didn’t happen. This is big boy football and that’s your job.

“He did great work in other areas. Tom Herman did a fabulous job, but Tom Herman and Braxton Miller understand they have to get better.”

From the sounds of it, one might think Meyer is unsatisfied with Herman. But that is false.  Everything at Ohio State was accelerated in Meyer’s first season – the results, the offense, etc. It’s usually the second season when it all comes together. A big part of the immediate boon was Herman’s offensive expertise.

It’s the first-year results and knowing most of those weapons return that leaves coaches and players salivating. The countdown to Aug. 31 is already on.

“If he becomes fundamentally the best quarterback in America, I think he will be the best quarterback in America,” Meyer said. “I think it’s comical what he will do, but he’s not there yet.”

36 Comments

Comments

droessl's picture

"I think it’s comical what he will do"
Can the dry goods shop start selling emergency pants?

GoBucks713's picture

Depends.....

-The Aristocrats!

Denny's picture

If Miller really is more Smith than Pryor (I think he probably is), I look forward to our increasingly-bitchin' pass game. Smith's sophomore year showed his promise on foot, but man did he grow as a passer.
I also hope we have guys who become Holmes/Gonzo/Ginn out at WR. That'd help Miller (and the parallels) a lot.

Taquitos.

Poison nuts's picture

I agree that the passing game could become totally bitchin' within a year or 2.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

bhartman13's picture

I sure hope Braxton is more Troy Smith than Pryor!  With Miller's athletic ability and how he makes defensive players look silly at times is somthing that can't be tought.  If he can develop into a stud passer like Troy did then the offense will be scary.  You have to think he will only get better with more time in this system and if Herman and Meyer can get him to have great footwork and much better accuracy the stats will be insane next season. 
The weapons are back and there will be more available with the incoming freshman so the opportunity is there for Braxton and I have a good feeling he will take advantage and lead the Buckeyes to another special season.

droessl's picture

I wonder how much of the low completion % and other struggles in the passing game is on the WRs not gaining separation vs. Braxton not making the right read/throw.

bhartman13's picture

I'm sure that has something to do with his completion % but the reality is Braxton was inconsistent at times with accuracy and his footwork wasn't all that great this year.  With another year in the offense and becoming more mature as a QB should elevate his completion percentage to around 65% next year.  Plus the WR's, TE's, and RB's will all be better in year 2 of the offense and make things slightly easier for Miller.

Boxley's picture

If you watch the games a few times each game, Braxton missed many wide open receivers, instead dumped off short gains, or tucked and ran for short yardage. He needs to see the field better and release quicker to where the receiver is going, not where he is at. Braxtons passing game is definitely his weak spot. If he fixes that he will be unstoppable.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

hodge's picture

See I don't really know if he's really a Troy Smith, either.  Smith had an uncanny ability to make plays happen with his legs--much like our current signal caller--but Miller's legs allow him to make plays on his own that Troy Smith could only dream of.  
I really see Miller as a blend of Smith and Pryor's strengths.  Though Miller may not have Pryor's size, or Smith's pocket presence (yet), he posesses an otherworldly instinctual running ability that has endless potential.  It seems to me that the key difference between Tressel and Meyer's approach is that while Tress tried to curb his QB's scrambles, encouraging them to extend the passing game with their feet, Meyer is wholeheartedly embracing the scramble--which means that we won't see a Troy-Smith-2006 rushing total (like 250 yards on the year).
Hopefully, Miller will make the step up this season and become a passer of Troy Smith's calibre. But I'm really hoping that he continues to leverage his game-breaking running ability, because that will be the key to getting defenses to stay honest in the passing game--increasing both the efficacy of his receivers and his own legs.

BrewstersMillions's picture

If he makes the transition fron Runner-who-can-throw to Passer-who-can-move, he's going to shatter any numbers Troy or Pryor put up. As soon as he consistenley starts creating in the passing game with his feet, the sky is the limit. Once opposing defenses have to seriously concern themselves with both facets of his game, there might not be any one capable of stopping the young man.

Do I come off as arrogant? Shame on me, I was hoping it would more obvious.

LouGroza's picture

It will be fun to watch next season. Braxton and Heisman are two words that will be heard a million times. Can't wait.

droessl's picture

Hell, wasn't Sophomore Troy Smith routinely skipping passes off the dirt against Iowa? Sophomore Braxton looks like Aaron Rodgers by comparison.

Poison nuts's picture

I'm claiming the team could have more than one Heisman candidate next year or at least multiple players being discussed. I'm thinking Braxton, Shazier, & possibly even Hyde if everything clicks on offense. Going to be a fun year to watch...

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

droessl's picture

I really hope Hyde comes back, even though there's plenty of (largely unproven) depth at RB.
In the last 10 years of Buckeye RBs, is there anyone not named Beanie Wells you'd take over Hyde? For me, Pittman is close, but I'd still roll with El Guapo.

Poison nuts's picture

I think if this was the typical OSU Dave only offense, Hyde would break 1500 yards with a full season to work with. I wouldn't trade the guy for any back out there...

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Doc's picture

I know he was a head case, but Clarett was a man child.  His sophomore and junior years could have been jaw dropping.

"Say my name."

droessl's picture

I wasn't counting Clarett since its been 10 years since he played. #fuzzymath

buckz4evr's picture

And he doesn't appear to be injury prone.  With Beanie, after every play, I would look to see if he got up.  I know Hyde was hurt this year, but his injury didn't seem to linger the rest of the year.

IBleedSandG's picture

Last Ten years, I'd go:
1. Beanie
2. Clarett
3. Hyde
All great power backs with deceptive speed.

"You pick up the rifle and go as hard as you can possibly go."
-UFM

droessl's picture

I damn near threw up on my desk seeing "Dave" used to describe offense. Those were(n't) the days!

Poison nuts's picture

I hated it too! But Hyde would definitely excel if he were in that offense as the featured back. I'm glad he's not. Take some Rolaids, forget you saw it, get back to work. Those TPS reports won't generate themselves!!  :)

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

KByars41's picture

Do you have any idea Ohio State ran the dreaded "DAVE" this season? I'd be willing to bet close to 100 times. It is THE off tackle play in football, and without it, Urban's bread and butter run play (counter single) would be completely ineffective. DAVE gets way too much grief from the armchair quarterbacks on this and other Buckeye forums. Ohio State is not Ohio State without it, and Coach Meyer knows this better than any of us.

smith5568's picture

I wish I could upvote you more for this one. 

Doc's picture

Damn it Kyle, I'm having a hard enough time coping with out Buckeye football this article has made it tons worse.  I can't wait to see the growth Braxton makes, these next two years are going to be fun.

"Say my name."

chitown buckeye's picture

I agree with Meyer on Millers Scrambling ability. It certainly is an art form. I think Craig Krenzel was the greatest "scrambler" I,ve watched for the Buckeyes. He always seemed to know the situation, down and distance and would make great runs at perfect times. I hope Miller picks up this art form, however I understand when your known as a "running QB" you want to get rid of that stigma and continue to look downfield for a pass but a great QB, especially one with Millers legs, will make huge plays if he tucks it and goes at the right time.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

If Miller learns to scramble like Krenzel did he will put up Tecmo Bowl stats. One of my favorite memories of Krenzel was his scrambling in the Illinois game in 2002. Braxton becomes half the scrambler he was and he may rush for 2,000 and pass for more than 2,000. IF he stays healthy.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

IBleedSandG's picture

The more I think about Urban's remarks regarding Braxton's scrambling ability, the more excited I get. When Brax learns when to pull it down and get upfield on passing plays that aren't there, look out!
I think the passing game is really going to improve by the time next August rolls around. I look for more deep throws, but I think more quick WR screens should be called as well. If Brax gets effective with the intermidiate 10-to-15-yard throw, that will be the point when the passing game becomes a major weapon. With Philly and Devin back, Brax has his two favorite options and he will have great chemistry w/ the two of them. I think one if not both of the young TE's become a big threat also.
My predictions for Brax's numbers next year: 63% Comp, 2,800 passing, 1,200 rushing (b/c of better scrambling), 35 Total TD's
Offense will average 45 pts/game (that actually might be a little low).

"You pick up the rifle and go as hard as you can possibly go."
-UFM

GoBucks713's picture

Is it possible that if Hyde comes back, Herman will have too many weapons? What happens with Jordan Hall? What do you do with Brown, Smith, Spencer, Williams, and any other WR that comes along. Two TEs is it? Don't forget about the rest of the RBs that are wanting their time on the field. Herman has his work cut out.

-The Aristocrats!

btalbert25's picture

There's no such thing as too many weapons.  Guys get hurt, and you know say Hall just isn't quite the same after this year off, if he's the good leader that we've heard, he'll accept a lesser role to win.

chitown buckeye's picture

I think guys rise up or fall to the side. Best player plays type situation. As an example, I don't think that just because Brown played this year he is an automatic starter next year. If Hall, or any of the freshman show they can play the position better than they will be on the field. I think competition steps up every ones game and whoever is making plays will be in the ball game. I also agree that injuries can/will happen so as many "play makers" as we can have on the team the better.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

btalbert25's picture

You know what makes Urban awesome?  He makes EVERYONE give their best.  Not just the kids on the field, but his comment about Herman proves that he puts the screws to his assistants too.  He's constantly demanding the best out of everyone involved with the program.  The guy is incredible.  I've never seen a coach who can be elite at recruiting, motivating, and game planning(you know actual coaching) like this guy.  Then you take into account the excellence he demands out of his staff and it's no wonder the guy has 2 titles in 11 years, and has succeeded everywhere he has coached.

Trig Lazer's picture

Don't shoot me, but my take is completely different than the rest. I think we've already seen the best of Miller. Actually, my contention is that in regard to running a true Urban Meyer offense we regressed as the season wore on..putting us in a position to go back in time and rely on a punishing running attack featuring Hyde.
Miller has all the intangibles, speed, vision, and big play ability. What he lacks is judgement and decision making up to this point. I'm not confident the mental part of the game will match his physical ability. He obviously misreads when to hand the ball off or not, takes way too many sacks, and seems to miss wide open receivers.
Opposing defenses like Wisc and Mich figured out how to stop him. Sure..he's going to get a couple big plays on you...but if you contain the ends and make him beat you with his arm and head instead of his legs..you have a legit shot at containing him.
IF he can get it figured out he could be great..if not...I think he may spiral downward.

buckeye76BHop's picture

Great stuff as usual Kyle...but this quote should be down right scary thought for the rest of the B1G.

"Imagine what Miller can do with an entire offseason of already being acclimated with the nuances of the up-tempo spread offense."

 

"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 

Grant Edgell's picture

I hope he's more Smith than Pryor, as others have said. But it would be special if he had that 14-yard scramble in him on 4th-and-10 like TP in Iowa City two seasons ago. Obviously he does and if we're to believe Urban, we just haven't seen it yet.
His numbers are already historical on a few levels at Ohio State, and he already has a "legendary" moment with the bomb against Wisconsin in 2011, but imagine if he can turn X amount of would-be-incomplete passes into game-changing runs.
He has all the tools to be Troy and TP, in my opinion.

bigbill992001's picture

Until he gets better at reads, decisionmaking and passing, he's not going to NYC unless he puts up 2500 on the ground.    Look at the QBs that are topnotch.    They're much more complete than Brax, tho Brax is a better runner.