Ohio State 2012 Breakdown: Quarterbacks

By Ross Fulton on January 24, 2013 at 2:00p
13 Comments

Perhaps fittingly, we conclude our review with a focus on the player likely most responsible for both Ohio State's 2012 success and expectations for 2013 — Braxton Miller.

Given his extensive play as a freshman, it is easy to forget that Miller was only a sophomore this fall. And Miller faced a difficult learning curve. His freshman season was largely a wash with the coaching turmoil and yo-yo treatment.

Then Miller had a new coaching staff and offensive system to learn his sophomore year. Despite it all, Miller invariably made big plays when needed and led OSU to an undefeated season.

Going forward, Miller can take advantage of the stability this offseason to refine his fundamentals and take a big step forward for 2013. 

Where We Have Been

The sophomore Miller flashed his enormous potential but was clearly an unfinished product. Miller's greatest strength — and the one opposing defenses game planned for — was Miller's game-breaking threat as a runner. Miller's lateral quickness is unmatched. He was particularly dangerous when he got to the defense's edge.

OSU sought to get him there in one of two ways. The first was read plays, primarily inside zone read and inverted veer.

The second was lead QB runs, what OSU refers to as "single wing plays." Those were primarily QB counter-trey,

And lead outside zone.

Those above runs amply demonstrate Miller's natural ability, particularly in making guys miss in the hole.

Yet Miller can improve his consistency as a runner. At times, Miller is too quick to sacrifice sure yards for the attempt at a big play. During games he became a more natural runner once he hit a big gain, but at times he needs to be willing to accept what is there.

Further, Miller needs to understand the difference between running hard and avoiding hits. Following his injury against Purdue, Miller became more tentative in an attempt to get down and avoid contact. Yet Miller can still hit the hole aggressively but then get down. Indeed, Urban Meyer made this exact point to Miller during the Michigan game. And to his credit, Miller ran harder for the remainder of the game.

The upshot is that Miller is an incredible runner, one that opposing coaches gear their defenses to stop, but he can become more consistent on a play-to-play basis.

Reading is Fun-Damental 

Miller's inconsistency also extends to his reads in the run game. With the spread run game, forcing a defense to devote a defender to the quarterback only achieves its constraint purpose if the quarterback makes the correct read. All too often, Miller pre-determined his reads.

This generally took one of two forms. Against lesser opponents, he would reflexively give the football. Against better opponents he did the opposite, keeping in the attempt to try to make a play when the give was available. 

As with running the football, Miller's reads also improved once when he got in the flow of the game.

Miller's reads also improved as the season progressed. This was particularly the case in the last few home games. It was apparent not only with read plays, but also with option. Miller eschewed keeping on option plays to make the correct read.

It's a Process

Miller's prowess as a passer had even more room for growth. Yet some of the same themes were apparent. Miller was inconsistent. When he was decisive and his footwork was good he threw a crisp, accurate ball with velocity.

Too often, however — particularly to begin football games — Miller was indecisive and did not set his feet. This led to late throws and an unwillingness to pull the trigger.

As a result, Miller was often a better passer when he was moving on sprint-out and bootlegs, because he naturally set his feet. Further, as Meyer pointed out in his postseason press conference, Miller is a poor scrambler for such an athlete.

Part of this is pocket presence and footwork. Rather than move to buy time and find holes, Miller gets 'stuck in cement' in the pocket.

 

 

And Miller simply needs to be more willing to take off when his initial options are not available. This was another advantage of sprint-out passing, because it automatically put him in a run-pass situation.

Stepping up

As with other aspects, Miller also became a better passer once he got in the flow of the game with running the football. He became more decisive and looked to make plays. Miller also grew as a passer over the season.

A noticeable split occurred in November. Miller was a far better passer at home than away. Indeed, his two most consistent games were against Illinois and Michigan. I view this home-road split as a positive. He was clearly growing in comfort as a passer. Naturally, one would expect that to first manifest itself at home.   

In both games, Miller came out confident in his decision-making and footwork early — without the need for running to get himself going. By being decisive in his decision-making, his footwork was resultingly crisp, and he therefore spun the football. He stepped into his throws and delivered passes on time with accuracy.

When Miller played at this level as a passer, Miller — and the Buckeye offense — was extremely difficult to defend. Defenses simply could not both take away Miller running and adequately defend against the pass, providing a preview of what can be with the Buckeye offense.

Gamer 

Miller's Michigan performance is a good stepping stone for him into the offseason. With more continuity than he has heretofore experienced at OSU, Miller can hone fundamentals such as his footwork. If Miller is able to make continued strides forward as he did this fall, he and the Buckeye offense will be extremely difficult to stop.

Yet even through inconsistent periods this fall, Miller continually demonstrated his best quality. Without fail, Miller stepped up and made plays when OSU needed them most. In tight games, Miller unfailingly delivered with both his arm and feet.

This is Miller's best attribute. If he can combine this with continued growth, Miller will be a Heisman frontrunner for 2013.

13 Comments

Comments

iball's picture

Not that the anticipation of Braxton's junior yr isnt exciting enough, but given the type of player he is I am almost certain he will be back for his senior year as well. Can you imagine what kind of player he could be by then? Unreal.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

Ahh Saturday's picture

Thanks again Ross.  These are definitely my favorite bits on 11w.  I wonder if you could comment on Braxton's running after Purdue.  It seemed that he became a little more tentative, less natural, and more eager to find a place to slide.  Certainly, his running numbers went down after Purdue.  How much of this was due to the defensive schemes of Wisconsin, Michigan?  How much was due to losing Boren as a blocker?  Any reason to be worried that Braxton might have lost a bit of confidence as a runner after that injury at Purdue? 

doodah_man's picture

That. Anyone else notice?

Jim "DooDah" Day
It is hard to play dirty against a man who picks you up.

Ross Fulton's picture

I alluded to this in the article, but it was a combination. Teams definitely did a better job taking away what he would prefer to do, which is bounce outside. But IMO he also started running more tentatively following that game. He was tentative and focused on getting down. That is why, as I mentioned, Urban got on him during the Michigan game when he turned what should have been a big 3d down conversion in the red zone into about a 3 yd game. To his credit, he ran hard after that. But he needs to examine someone like Kaepernick. You can run hard to the last second and still get down or out of bounds.

nvbuckeye's picture

Your Kaepernick comment is spot on.  However, after watching him for 4 years at Nevada, remember he wasn't that great a runner until his junior year and then a phenom runner in his senior year.  If Braxton Miller can progress his sophomore to junior year like Kap did then all other teams had better watch out because he will make them look like pop warner teams, both with his legs and his arm.

DefendYoungstown's picture

Personally I think he was afraid of getting thumped again, that was a big boy hit he took. I think it really scared him, it appeared to knock him senseless for a lil bit.

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

Maestro's picture

Sky is the limit.  The fact that Miller had such a productive season despite leaving so many yards/plays on the field is very encouraging.  With consistency in coaching and the consistency in the offensive players I expect an outstanding season from B Mill in 2013.

vacuuming sucks

buckeye4life050233's picture

Purdue also took a lot of cheap shots in that game against him as well.  "Bounty" anyone?  As a whole we didn't get a lot of the late hit out of bounds calls go our way either, and conversely had many go against our defense. 

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

I agree that there were missed calls on late hits, but with the type of runner Braxton can be, it isn't hard to imagine hitting him late just because you are either frustrated or you ran 40 yards across the field to cut him off and then he steps out of bounds and you feel like you need to get a hit for all that running.  I think we got a lot of these calls to go are way especially as the season progressed it was clear that either the B1G and the refs, or Meyer really started to get the officials to look for these late hits on him, because he is so elusive.  I think we got a lot to go are way, but the ones that don't go your way are the ones' we naturally remember, because they stick out as mistakes, while the calls that went OSU's way just seem natural and so they are forgotten quickly often.
But...as always with a defense that boasts Christian Bryant playing safety, you are going to get a lot of late hits go against you.  CB2 is notoriously bad at pulling up so even the borderline hits would be called.  Similar to Miller's positive reputation as a runner I think C.B.2 got a negative reputation as a late hitter near the sideline.

OldColumbusTown's picture

I think part of the problem with Braxton getting hit late so often is his penchant for kind of baiting opponents into it.  He tends to really slow down and just kind of duck out of bounds right in front of the defender. 
If he can take the extra punishment, I guess that is fine and dandy.  But we all know he tends to get nicked up a bit by a big hit or awkward landing.  As the QB, I'd be fine with him not seeking out that extra 15 yards and keeping him a little more healthy throughout the year.

Hovenaut's picture

Sky is the limit the next two years for Braxton.

Seems like the perfect kid at the crossroads of talent at QB that OSU and Urban have had over the past few years.

I am not the Last Dragon, therefore I do not possess the power of the Glow.

Codeezy's picture

Great write up and organization Ross. Thank you.

NEWBrutus's picture

Wondering to myself a few things...
In many of the plays you selected to show, the "numbers advantage" at the snap was in Ohio State's favor.  I wonder how much the process of "looking to the sideline for the play" (which is admitedly frustrating when watching a game) is a function of the coaches counting the people on each side of the formation before calling a specific run play.  Ross, can you shed any light on this (even if it is your own opnion).  
To that same point, I wonder how much "freedom" Miller will be given in the future to change things based on what he sees pre-snap...ie if there is a numbers advantage to one side can he check to a play going that direction?
Not to be all "zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" or anything, but I wonder how much of the passing game difficulties can be attributable to the receivers.  You can have a great quarterback, but average to below average receives can make your qb look worse than he is.  Likewise you can have great receivers (see 2005-06) and make your qb look very good. I kind of get the feeling that for Braxton to make the kind of strides we would all like to see in the passing game, he needs significant improvement from the guys on the receiving end of those passes.  To be sure, there is room for improvement in Braxon's game, but the "ceiling" is more dependant on others IMO.  Ross, do you have any thoughts on this?
I'm very excited about the offense next year!  Can't hardly wait.