For Braxton Miller, it's All About Maximizing Talent

By Kyle Rowland on February 19, 2013 at 10:00a
Your reigning Big Ten MVP is making the jump to beast mode.

Three thousand three hundred and ten yards. A school record for total yards in a season. Twenty-seven touchdowns. That was just a start for Ohio State dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller. There’s plenty more in the offing. 

Heisman Trophy? Maybe, but Miller made it clear when he accepted the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football, given annually to the Big Ten’s player of the year, that individual awards have little value to him. The trophy he most covets is crystal and goes to the best team.

“I'm just thankful for all the things I can do out there and receive awards like this,” said Miller, who was cheered loudly by adoring Ohio State fans when he received his trophy at halftime of the Buckeyes’ basketball game last Thursday versus Northwestern. “It’s nice and it is a blessing, but we have bigger things in mind.”

In just one season under Meyer, the numbers Miller put up has everyone associated with Ohio State frothing. The system fit the quarterback’s talents like a glove – that much was known the day Meyer was hired. But the level of the immediate returns was also alarming to many.

Miller finished fifth in the Heisman voting thanks in part to more than 2,000 passing yards and 1,200-plus yards on the ground. That production combined with Meyer’s coaching pedigree has led many to tab Ohio State as an early front-runner for the 2013 national championship.

Still, the maturation of Miller’s skills is only in the beginning stages. That’s why he took the initiative to learn under the guidance of quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. His client list is a ‘Who’s Who’ of quarterbacks – Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel and on and on.

“I certainly didn’t mind,” said Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman, about Miller’s lessons from Whitfield, also known as the ‘quarterback whisperer.’ “Without the bowl game and the practices, for him to take it upon himself to go out to California and try to hone his craft, I was fired up about it.”

The goal of Miller’s December trip to San Diego was to improve every facet of being a quarterback. But the area he is keying on during the offseason is mechanics.

“I had bad mechanics last year,” Miller said. “I want to focus on it this year.”

Poor mechanics or not, the slinging worked. Miller completed 58 percent of his passes, up from 54 percent during his freshman season. 

One of Whitfield’s techniques involves teaching quarterbacks to develop “chaos mechanics.” In other words, reacting positively when plays break down and pressure comes from all directions.

In a recent Sports Illustrated profile on Whitfield, who graduated from Massillon and played college football under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State before transferring to Tiffin, it was revealed that three areas in particular are Whitfield’s specialty: footwork, throwing motion and throwing on the move. It just so happens each of those is vital to Miller’s game.

“His good is really, really stinkin' good, and he just needs to continue working on the consistency of it, because he’s capable of that.”

Herman pointed out that Miller’s footwork is in need of repair.

“When he’s good, he’s really good, and when he’s bad, he’s bad,” Herman said. “We need him to be really good more often. His good is really, really stinkin' good, and he just needs to continue working on the consistency of it, because he’s capable of that.”

Miller showed last season that he can throw rather effectively when flushed from the pocket, but his throwing mechanics are in need of an overhaul.

During his tutelage under Whitfield, Miller participated in drills on the San Diego beaches and in the Pacific Ocean to improve pocket mobility.

“You’ve got to keep your composure and just keep your mind on your mechanics and it gets you through it,” Miller said. “I'm just getting comfortable right now.”

He’s found his comfort zone inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. That’s where you can find Miller and his wide receivers working on drills to improve timing, throwing, route running and the like. Ohio State’s season may have ended a few days after Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean it’s been a vacation for the players.

Realizing the need to get better, Miller said the entire team began working toward the 2013 season on the Monday following the Michigan game, two days after the Buckeyes completed a perfect season. This is the second straight season Ohio State’s bowl practices have been useless. A year ago, the team was transitioning staffs and this year they were banned from the postseason.

“We still have to get better,” Herman said. “We may have been the most flawed undefeated team in the history of college football. That’s a testament to the kids because they found a way to win every week, but we still have work to do. But it is exciting knowing what we accomplished last year, not even being close to potential of what we think we can be.”

The hope is several incoming recruits can help tap into that potential. Despite a 12-0 record, Ohio State was far from a finished product last year, as Herman alluded to. But a top-ranked recruiting class included a handful of playmakers that could see playing time immediately – as in Aug. 31, when the Buckeyes play Buffalo.

But that group, which includes Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall and James Clark, isn’t arriving on campus until this summer. So count Herman among those not banking on them at the present time.

“The main focus is development and improvement of the guys that are here,” he said. “To say that we’re going to depend on them is absolutely false. Having those guys is a luxury more than it is a necessity.”

With Miller’s third year as the starter approaching, he’s also taken to becoming a leader. He’s the one organizing workouts with fellow offensive players and providing pointers on how the unit can improve as a whole. Ohio State, for all its successes last season, had just the 101st-ranked passing offense.

“Every year you've got to be a leader and just push the team, and we’ve got to start up from what we did last year," Miller said.

Said Herman: “We can’t be hands-on at all, so this is where you take the next step as a leader and make sure somehow, some way you guys are throwing and doing drills and all that stuff to make up for those (lost bowl practices).”

With his mind constantly working at 100 miles per hour, Herman is always thinking football and how to get a leg up on the competition. He and Meyer have already dissected every offensive play from last season looking for any snippet that could benefit the offense going forward. Needless to say, the no-contact period isn’t easy for Herman. But the details he’s hearing have been of the positive variety.

“From the reports I get, it’s like what a very well-coached and well-run offense should be doing in the offseason,” Herman said. “That means having the quarterback out there throwing the football around with all the skill guys and the offensive linemen doing drills.

“From what I understand, all of that is getting done.”

In a few weeks, Herman will regain possession of his star quarterback and prized understudy. Then it will come time to get something else done – a national championship. 


Comments Show All Comments

SPreston2001's picture

Very nice writeup! Is it football season yet?!!

buckeyepastor's picture

Very excited for spring, and fall.   If Miller can work on settling himself and being consistent as a passer, this team should not lose a game in ther regular season.   
I am hoping and expecting that Meyer and Herman are spending some extra time looking at the tape from the Wisconsin and Michigan games, when XBrax was largely neutralized.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

kgratz's picture

I think he was neutralized because they were worried about stopping his long runs instead of stopping the pass.  If we can develop a passing game where the opponent has to worry about that imagine the running room Braxton can have.  UN REAL.

How Firm Thy Friendship

kgratz's picture

Imagine if Braxton can throw the ball and scramble as well as Manziel in 2013.  Coupled with design runs and Hyde/Smith/Hall/Dunn in the backfield this offense should be truly unstoppable against the level of competition we play next year.  Pasadena 2014 here we come.

How Firm Thy Friendship

beserkr29's picture

Urban himself has said scrambling is an area that Braxton needs to improve.  Manziel is far and away a better scrambler than Braxton.  I'd give Braxton the slight edge as a runner based on what we saw in games 1-9.  If he can get his passing to a high enough level, Braxton can be an all-time great at OSU.  Improvement by Braxton in the passing game should be the every other team in the country's worst nightmare. 

OSUAndy07's picture

Need football. Right now.

"But I'm tryin' Ringo. I'm tryin', real hard, to be the shepherd"

Ahh Saturday's picture

My only concern about Braxton is whether or not he can return to trusting his instincts while running.  I remember the long run he had against Nebraska, the 70+ yarder where he came up just short of the goal line.  After about a 7 or 8 yard gain, 2 defenders are converging on Miller in the middle of the field.  He makes an impossible cut to the right, makes them both miss and races another 60+ yards down the field.  Later in the season, after the injury scare against Purdue --God I hate Purdue-- he was sliding in similar situations.  I have no doubt that he will be a better, more consistent, passer next year.  I just hope he remains the same explosive threat running the ball.  If so, it will be a very fun season to watch.

81Alum's picture

After that hit in the Purdue game, I cringed any time Braxton ran the ball. I also noticed that Braxton was a lot more measured while running - the reckless abandon with which he ran before was gone.
I'm sure opposing defenses are/will be keying on Braxton, and I hope he holds up for the entire season. Hyde and other play makers should help occupy opposing defenses and take some attention away from Braxton.

acBuckeye's picture

I noticed the same thing, but you also have to remember that after the Purdue game, the coaches WANTED him to take fewer unnecessary hits. That's probably why we saw more sliding and running out of bounds. This is a good thing. He's the most important piece for us on offense. When the play is there, I want him doing everything he can to make the play, but if it's not, just get down and survive (ie. slide, run OOB, throw it away, etc.), and go to the next play still healthy.
My biggest concern with him is that he'll be so focused on becoming a better passer that he'll ignore the easy scrambling yards when they're there. He did this multiple times last year when the first down was right there, and he kept running towards the sideline or sitting in the pocket. Maybe this is what Urbz is talking about when he needs to improve as a scrambler. I recall Troy Smith and Pryor doing this many times in their days as well. There's a fine line between getting the guaranteed yards, and making a bigger play down field with your arm.

Ahh Saturday's picture

This sounds like good advice:

When the play is there, I want him doing everything he can to make the play, but if it's not, just get down and survive (ie. slide, run OOB, throw it away, etc.), and go to the next play still healthy.

The trouble with it is that Miller consistently made plays when the play WAS NOT there.  It's what makes him special. I saw him interviewed once before Purdue, and he was asked about how he runs.  He said he never thinks about, but that his feet would just move.  Now he's thinking about it, and he's not the same runner.
I know you want to keep him healthy, but the dream of a dual threat guy is that he punishes you with both his arm and his legs.  I'm excited to see his passing improve.  I just hope his running remains the same threat it was.

acBuckeye's picture

Good point you made. I just hope his focus on being a better passer doesn't take away from his amazing running ability. But he also needs to be aware of taking fewer unnecessary hits. I realize this is all easier said than done.
I can't wait for the fall.

zbd's picture

Realizing what you are not good at means everything.  Impressive that Miller/coaches/ and team members know they were not good last year in many aspects of the game (101st in offense) despite winning all the games in the league. Working to get better is great.

Buckeye_TilIdie's picture

I'm glad Braxton wants too improve his passing game it's very crucial that he's able to pass. The main reason I say that is because I'm tired of teams not respecting the pass I would love to see Braxton make teams respect our ability to throw.

Punks jump up to get beat down.

BUCKfutter's picture

Those IU jerseys look a lot like Bama jerseys from behind...thinking we might be seeing more pictures that look like this one come, say, early January 2014?

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

Hovenaut's picture

I love what this program did on the field last year, warts and all.

I'm loving what I'm reading about what is going on off the field now. I'm about as jazzed up as I think I've ever been in February about this football team....that includes February 2003.

For all his physical talents I'm pleased to hear about Braxton Miller putting forth the initiative and effort to improve himself. That's leadership, that's maturity, that's exactly the kind of offseason press I'm happy to read/hear about.

And continued thanks to 11W for the write up....excellent as always.

Doc's picture

Hovenaut nailed it for me.  Hearing about Braxton doing all of this extra work is refreshing.  I don't remember hearing about this in seasons past.  Maybe it is Urban's openness with the press that we are hearing this.  Whatever the reason I like it.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Why did the last sentence give me chills?

Maestro's picture

Keep grinding.  Sky is the limit.

vacuuming sucks

BIGHEC39's picture

R U Ready for some FooooootBall!!!, Man I'm excited...... Man I'm hoping and Praying that the Buckeyes make it to the National Championship Game.....   Being that I live about 30 Minutes from The RoseBowl, Man I will do anything to see UFM put a Smackin and Dethrone Alabama & the SEC......  
Man I Feel like its Christmas.......