You Say You Want an Evolution

By Chris Lauderback on December 16, 2012 at 6:00a
A shot at next year's national title rests largely on these shoulders.

"Our quarterback fundamentally, he wasn't the best fundamental quarterback in America. But I still have no idea where his ceiling is. Pocket awareness, comfort, just the fundamentals of throwing the ball, I don't see the ceiling yet. He's got that much further to go. The sky is the limit for him.

To say that he's a finished product is not even close to reality. Tom Herman and Braxton Miller understand that they have to get better. If Braxton Miller becomes fundamentally the best quarterback in America, I think he will be the best quarterback in America." - Urban Meyer

Without question, Braxton made huge strides in his sophomore season, his first under the tutelage of competent coaches. The numbers pretty much speak for themselves. Urban's thoughts, delivered the Monday after his quarterback led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season, spoke volumes about year two of the Braxton Miller Experience but more importantly, put in the crosshairs exactly what needs to happen in the first eight months of Miller's development in year three for Ohio State to have a shot at the national title. 

Braxton Miller Season By Season Passing
2011 85 157 1159 13/4 54.1 96.6 138.4
2012 148 254 2039 15/6 58.3 169.9 140.5
2011 159 715 4.5 7 59.6 95
2012 227 1271 5.6 13 105.9 24

Through the air, Miller completed 63 more passes for an additional 880 yards, added four points to his completion percentage, 73 yards to his per game average and improved his overall passer rating to 140.5. No question Miller benefitted greatly from more effective coaching specific to overall throwing mechanics, and to do so in the midst of learning a new offense was a testament to not only his talents but his work ethic and maturity.  

For comparison, looking at Terrelle Pryor's sophomore season, he completed only 56.6% of his passes with a TD/INT ration of 18/11 and a passer rating of 128.9, further magnifying just how far Braxton came in year two. 

On the ground, Miller's sophomore season totals blow away the output from his rookie year. He increased his yards per carry more than a yard, rushed for 46 more yards per game to total 105.9 and improved his national ranking in rush yards per game an amazing 71 slots. 

Again, for comparison, Pryor rushed for just 59.9 yards per game in his second season with a yards per carry of 4.8. 

Bottom line, you don't need me to tell you he was a freak in large doses this past season. The kid rushed for 100+ yards in six of 12 outings, cranked out 275 yards of total offense per game (36th), generated 28 TDs and broke 2.8 ankles per game (APG). 

In fact, things look absolutely fantastic when you look at the 12 game capsule. When you look under the covers, however, you can easily see why Urban chose the words he did when recapping the season. 

Generally speaking, Miller was a beast in the first seven games but didn't fare nearly as well over the final five: 

1ST 7  GAMES 96 159 60.4 11/4 18.4 912 7.1 130.3 9
FINAL 5 GAMES 52 95 54.7 4/2 19.6 359 3.7 71.8 4


The drop-off in production is pretty eye-popping, especially the near six percentage point drop in completion percentage, the fluctuation in the TD/INT ratio and the dramatic decline in rushing yards per carry from 7.1 all the way down to 3.7 with only four touchdowns. Looking at the individual game summaries, Miller threw for over 200 yards and rushed for over 100 yards just once each over those final five contests. 

On one hand, it's reasonable to think a portion of his troubles were the product of stiffer competition and that would be accurate as the first seven opponents averaged out to rank 65th in total defense while the final five averaged out to rank 36th nationally including Penn State at 32nd, Wisconsin 13th and Michigan 11th, respectively. 

Braxton wasn't the same runner after this nasty spill

At the same time, there's no question Braxton was less consistent, becoming a little more skittish in the pocket and less aggressive on the run after being awkwardly slammed to the Ohio Stadium turf in what was already a dismal showing against Purdue (passing: 9/20, 113 yards, INT; rushing: 12/47), the first of those final five games of 2012. 

Interestingly, after being deemed concussion and injury-free just hours after the tilt against Purdue, Miller was a beast in the run game the following week, cranking out 25 carries for 134 yards with two touchdowns. Despite the heady rushing stats, he was awful through the air, connecting on only 7/19 with a touchdown and while he was only intercepted once, two more hit PSU players in the hands. 

Against the worst of the final five defenses the next week, Braxton eclipsed the 200-yard passing mark with two touchdowns against Illinois' 54th ranked total defense and rushed for another 73 and a score. After Meyer openly opined that Miller's footwork was largely to blame for the inaccurate passes the previous two weeks, Miller went out and hit 12/20 for 226 yards. If not for a handful of drops on would-be sizeable gainers, two from Stoneburner, Braxton's stat line would've read closer to 15/20 for 260+ yards.  

Despite the bounce-back performance, Braxton played arguably his worst game of the season the following week in Madison. He failed to find the end zone, was held to a season-low 97 passing yards and was one yard shy of tying his season low in rushing with 48 yards on 2.1 per tote.

He looked in a fog as he held the ball way too long in the pocket, failed to set his feet and step into throws, struggled with decision-making on zone read running plays and was flat out tentative on rushing attempts.

When the dust settled on his 10/18 passing effort, he was now completing just 49% of his throws over the last four games.

As inconsistent as his passing had been over the last month, Miller did find consistency through the air in the season finale against Michigan and their second-ranked pass defense nationally, hitting a career-best 78% of his attempts (14/18) – even with two purposeful throwaways – for 189 yards and a score. Unfortunately, he still held on to the ball way too long at times, resulting in four sacks.

Herman's challenge: Help Braxton improve his fundamentals

On the ground, it was a struggle once again as the Wolverines bottled him up to the tune of 20 carries for 57 yards, or 2.9 per carry. 

As I noted at the time, Braxton's late season struggles made him unworthy of a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist. That said, being on the fringe of being a Heisman finalist is still nothing to sneeze at. If anything, it illustrates just how lofty the expectations  – very fair expectations – are for a kid that simply oozes talent. 

That very fact is why Urban said what he said just two days after the season ended. 

He knows Braxton was a beast this year yet the kid is far from a finished product. Moreover, Meyer knows that the only way the Buckeyes run the table is if Miller puts forth a more consistent effort and can always be counted on to lead the charge against the tougher opponents on the slate. 

Braxton can be inconsistent and Ohio State can win the B1G because, well, the B1G is loaded with mediocre teams, but for the Buckeyes to make another run at an undefeated season Miller will have to realize growth, especially in passing fundamentals and decision-making in the run game. 

Without the benefit of bowl practices, it's up to Braxton, and when coaches Herman and Meyer are able, to shore up Braxton's areas of opportunities to maximize his ceiling, and with it, the ceiling for the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes. 

With that, it's easy to see why Urban says he wants to see an evolution because if he does, well don't you know it's gonna be all right. 


Comments Show All Comments

Roger's picture

Well...your throw, it's not gonna change the world.

zbd's picture

How true the statement "his first (year) under the tutelage of competent coaches". Braxton showed some amazing moves. He has something special.

BeijingBucks's picture

Another thing which should be considered though was how the second half of the season the defenses absolutely stacked the line against Brax's outside running lanes opening up gaudy stats for Hyde up the gut.
but I agree with the whole pain memory thing... just adds another thought into the mix which slows down decision processes.
By next year, especially if Hyde stays they should be able to add a few more wrinkles to the scheme to fully take advantage of the defensive tendencies.
Ross... please take Herman out for a drink!

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

larzdapunk's picture

My new favorite stat: ankles (broken) per game (APG)

buckeyepastor's picture

Gotta feel great about the offensive line and the stable of backs for next year.   Though, even though they were greatly improved from 2011, did not see anyone apart from Smith and Philly really standing out as receivers.  I think to make the leap to "great" we've got to have at least a third and possibly a fourth receiver really get established and consistently be involved.   I guess the TEs sort of did that this year, but would be really great if Reed or Michael Thomas or a Jalin Marshall really emerges this spring or fall.   I think that's the one missing piece.  I think we have two wideouts that can really make defenses sweat.  We get that up to 3 or more, and suddenly there are options in the passing game all over the field.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

The Penn State game revealed some flaws in the passing game which seemed to be overlooked, especially by the guys broadcasting the game.  For instance the first throw that the commentators talked about for the rest of the game was not going to be a pick six.  In fact it never touched the defender.  The corner tried to jump the route and was late, it hit the receiver right in his hands.  Sorry just something that, as you can probably tell, bothered me.  The other one was a lazy route or miscommunication if my memory serves me correct.  The point I'm trying to make is the receivers were far too inconsistent as well.  Inconsistent receivers can be as detrimental to the passing game as Braxton's mechanics.
On another note about the mich. game is that Braxton had that one sack that cost him like 15 rushing yards when he slipped trying to evade the defender.  I bet if you take away his sack numbers, which is a better understanding of how well he rushed the ball, then his rushing numbers look much nicer.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

We also had more than the average number of plays where Miller was having to smother a bad snap for a big loss. That kind of thing adds up (negatively) in your rushing totals.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

theDuke's picture

"Despite the HEADY rushing stats..."  Nice! Wootwoot


nickma71's picture

I saw this year as what should have been his freshmen season. That isn't disrespect to Luke Fickel, who was his coach. It isn't his position. I would have loved to seen Jamal Berry carry the ball half the time Braxton did. While taking nothing from Hyde. Just let Berry have half the designed QB runs without the zone read.
It would have been a two back system under me. All three on the field, then pass to the TE behind the safety.


Miller needs receivers that can get open consistently just as much as improved mechanics and fundamentals. Philly Brown showed this year he can be a go-to guy and I expect him to really shine next season. But how many times this year did we see Devin Smith completely disappear? He made some big catches but they were too far in between to take some of the pressure off Miller and Brown for that matter. Wisconsin was able to bottle up the OSU offense so well because it was easy for them to cover the OSU receivers. Miller can make leaps and bounds in his improvement in 2013 but if we dont get more playmakers at those positions I really dont think it will matter. I think we can all agree if Miller (and OSU) is going to take the next step his passing HAS to be more consistent. He can only run for so many yards before defenses get wise to him as we saw at the end of this season.

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

O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

Devin's track training helps him excel at deep routes but he really struggles to make any kind of cut. I hope he works on this over the winter because it hinders his ability to get separation on short and intermediate routes.

741's picture

I'm no QB coach, but from my perspective I think Braxton sometimes has difficulty finding open receivers - maybe he needs more reps and instruction going through his progressions? When he's in the zone, or if his primary receiver is wide open he is amazing. When he scrambles he can be amazing. But his biggest area for improvement, in my humble opinion, is to be able to stand in the pocket and find his third or fourth receiver. If/when he gets there it will be truly awesome.

45OH4IO's picture

Completely agree! There were many times WRs were open but Brax didnt get through progression fast enough. Thats the next step for him. This year was mostly two route read and pull it down to run. To beat the best teams, he will need to be more complete.
the wideouts arent fabulous, but they are not to blame for the large majority of the passing inefficiency. They did have some drops, but getting open was largely not a problem. 

Sarah's picture

Tom Herman looks like the love child of Owen Wilson and Jay Bruce in that photo.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Starring in "The National Championship Crashers" - coming to a stadium near you in 2013/14

AngryWoody's picture

Much love to Braxton, but I'm really curious as to how TP would have done in the UfM spread. He probably could have put up some gaudy numbers.
I don't think we can ever accuratley compare the two because of the different offensive schemes.
Lets just say this, TP got the keys to his moms 87 Buick, Braxton is getting to cruise around in Urbz souped up Porsche.

Our Honor Defend!

Phillips.449's picture

Agreed!  I am just giddy that UFM and Herman both say that they don't see a ceiling for this dude.  I can't wait to see him next year with another 8 months of maturity, film study and most of all a larger offensive playbook build by these coaches in his arsenal.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

I think TP had much better receivers his last two years.  Posey was the big play guy and then you had the sure handed slot receivers.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I'm just wondering how much better would Braxton's freshman numbers be if he had started all year, and had Posey from the start.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

onetwentyeight's picture

I will never stop wondering what types of video game numbers Pryor would've put up if he had
1.) someone better than a nobody video guy as his "qb coach" ,
2.) a system working to help him like Brax has. (but NO! Boom up the middle for 2! HUZZAH!)
3.) an Oline that's In shape and works (SHOCK) 

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

That's like wondering how many championships Ohio State would have won if MoC hadn't messed up. Or if Ginn hadn't ankle had remained intact. It's too depressing, so just focus on the future.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Toilrt Paper's picture

Remember, Pryor wanted to play in a Pro Offense in college. He wanted no part of a spread running offense.

IBleedSandG's picture

That may have been true, but I recall him saying he would put up similar numbers to Cam Newton if he played in the same offense that Auburn ran.


Jhesse17's picture

When Braxton becomes consistent with his mechanics........................ watch out. He uncorks 1-3 beautiful deep balls a game, and for the most part makes good reads, so you know the potential is there. When he becomes consistent with his feet and throws with his hand making a C and not a U he is going to be unreal.

misterbulbous's picture

My biggest concern is whether or not Braxton can handle all the pressure that has been thrust upon his shoulders.  It's apparent that the guys around him (especially RB's) have the potential to carry this team to another undefeated season.  Question is; how does Braxton balance the media hype of being a heisman candidate, b1g MVP, etc., without self-destructing and trying to do too much.=?
If I were to scrutinize, I would say the biggest thing he and the coaches need to work on is quick-hit passing.  I doubt there's a stat for it, but it would be interesting to see the elapsed time between the snap and throw and see how this compares across other teams. 

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

Our receivers have a tendency to drop quick hitting throws.  I'm guessing they are thinking about running or something before securing the ball.

CowCat's picture

We have Braxton Miller. Other teams wish they had Braxton Miller.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Toilrt Paper's picture

I am already ruing the day Braxton graduates.

MAVBuck's picture

Herman's challenge: Help Braxton improve his fundamentals
OSU's challenge: Keep Herman around for at least the next 2 years!