A Legacy in Limbo

By Chris Lauderback on January 18, 2014 at 8:15a
Braxton Miller has just one more chance to win a league title, a bowl game and/or a national championship

It was just over a week ago that Braxton Miller caused every Buckeye coach, player and fan to exhale in delight as he announced he would return for his senior season

Miller was coming off two-straight losses, had openly lamented the number of hits he was taking and had more than once made it known he felt he had the goods to excel at the next level. 

Factor in the reality he was fully aware a senior campaign would unfold behind four new starters on the offensive line and potentially incorporate a bevy of unproven receivers and it was far from certain he wouldn't move on to the next phase of football life. 

But just like that, he quietly announced he would be back and now Ohio State should once again be poised to make noise in the national championship race. 

Bare minimum, the reigning two-time B1G offensive MVP will be a preseason Heisman favorite and should have little trouble passing Art Schlichter as Ohio State's all-time career leader in Total Offense (-505 yards) and touchdowns (-1) in addition to surpassing Bobby Hoying's career touchdown passes mark of 57 (-6). He's also 11 victories away from being the winningest signal-caller in school history. 

But frankly, Miller's resume is not without its warts if he has any designs on not just being recognized as one of the great Ohio State quarterbacks but the greatest Ohio State quarterback. 

As such, how Braxton's senior season ultimately pans out will go a long way toward defining his legacy in Columbus no matter how many career records he claims along the way. 

The warts that rightly or wrongly come with the territory of being an elite player at a football powerhouse Miller will hope to address in 2014 include zero bowl wins, zero conference championships, a struggle to stay on the field for a full season and a two-year history of late season failings in the passing game. 

Of course, the lack of conference titles and bowl wins are a team thing but it's no secret the quarterback position often gets too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses. 

Braxton's BackBraxton's passing down the stretch has to improve

Additionally, a struggle to stay upright doesn't necessarily mean a player lacks toughness – just ask Greg Oden – but it also doesn't mean the player won't be the subject of criticism, fair or not, if he is perceived by some to occasionally be particularly finicky or comes off as a tad dramatic when dealing with the bumps of bruises that come with accounting for 44% of his team's yardage output. 

Focusing on which he has the most control, my personal belief is Miller must evolve as a passer to a degree that the last two late-season slumps become a distant memory, not only for the good of Ohio State but for the benefit of his draft stock because he won't get another do-over. 

After a throwaway freshman season under the tutelage of Jim Bollman and a video coordinator / quarterback coach who shall not be named, Miller finally received some coaching in his sophomore season but it was still season one in a new offense under the watchful eyes of Tom Herman and Urban Meyer. 

Miller absolutely made strides in the passing game compared to his freshman season, adding over four points to his completion percentage but gave everyone a glimpse of unfortunate things to come as his passing numbers over the final five games of the year fell off a cliff in comparison to his production over the first seven games. 

FIRST 7 GAMES 96 159 60.4% 11 4
FINAL 5 GAMES 52 95 54.7% 4 2 

The drop in production through the air was complemented by a similar decrease in rushing production as Miller generally became skittish in the pocket, abandoning his slowly improving mechanics and often held the ball too long as the Buckeyes faced much tougher defenses in much colder weather.

After a full offseason to further grasp the offense while spending time with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., expectations for Miller were sky high as he entered his junior season. Despite missing nearly three games due to injury, Miller looked like a completely different passer, showing improved command of the offense, an improved ability to stick with his mechanics and a desire to go through his progressions, often scrambling to buy time to throw instead of tucking and running at every opportunity. 

But again, over the final five games starting with a shaky 13/29 passing effort at always-windy Illinois in which some gave Miller a pass even though his counterpart, Nathan Scheelhaase, completed 66% of his throws, Braxton struggled mightily to get dialed in through the air. 

FIRST 7 GAMES 108 149 72.5% 15 3
FINAL 5 GAMES 54 106 50.9% 9 4

Miller's passing bottomed out over the final two games against conference foes as he went just 6/15 against Michigan with a touchdown and a pick before throwing up an 8/21 stinker against Michigan State, indoors, as Ohio State basically abandoned the aerial attack in favor of letting him try to make plays with his feet.

His accuracy rebounded a bit in favorable conditions provided by the Orange Bowl as he connected on 16/24 with two touchdowns but he also registered two picks, one off a fluky sack in which the ball came loose but with another that looked more like freshman Braxton as he completely overlooked an awaiting linebacker in coverage over the middle to kill Ohio State's last chance at a comeback win. 

Despite his late season nosedives, Miller's overall progression as a passer has grown leaps and bounds since his arrival. The trick now is to sustain it over the long haul, against better defenses and in unfavorable conditions. If Miller can crack the code on consistency, he can make a run at the Heisman and be the catalyst to a conference championship and potentially a national championship that would cement his legacy in Columbus. 


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Doc's picture

Good luck to Braxton in trying to improve. My worry is he has hit his ceiling and we're not going to see that Troy Smith like leap forward. I don't believe he trusts himself when the chips are down and reverts back to what he has known all his football playing life. For his sake, and ours I hope he takes that next huge step. 

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Poison nuts's picture

I don't believe he trusts himself when the chips are down and reverts back to what he has known all his football playing life.

That would be my opinion too...like you said, hope that changes.

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

GregB's picture

I dont believe he trusts his ARM when the chips are down, but he trusts his legs.  Partly he has been affected by one of the least effective receiving corps in about 20 years at OSU (in my opinion)  If you look at OSUs history with receivers since 94-95, its been a steady progresssion from Glenn, Galloway, Boston, Dee Miller, Rambo, Jenkins, Gonzo/Ginn/Holmes, Hartline, Robiskie, Sanzenbacher....... thats a lot of guys to get a QB out of trouble. The last 3 years have been pretty putrid by those aforementioned standards.  Every one goes through those phases with talent at different positions. This has been our receivers lull IMO.

GregB's picture

I dont believe he trusts his ARM when the chips are down, but he trusts his legs.  Partly he has been affected by one of the least effective receiving corps in about 20 years at OSU (in my opinion)  If you look at OSUs history with receivers since 94-95, its been a steady progresssion from Glenn, Galloway, Boston, Dee Miller, Rambo, Jenkins, Gonzo/Ginn/Holmes, Hartline, Robiskie, Sanzenbacher....... thats a lot of guys to get a QB out of trouble. The last 3 years have been pretty putrid by those aforementioned standards.  Every one goes through those phases with talent at different positions. This has been our down period for receivers IMO.

TMac's picture

Legacies are cemented in November and later, which to date hasn't been when Braxton has been at his best.  I hope he can put up these kinds of numbers for his whole senior season;
 108     149   72.5%    15   3
If so the legacy will take care of itself!

ONE Not Done!

Olemissbuckeye's picture

Houston Nutt - "They remember in November".

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Zero bowl wins. Zero conference championships.

That's actually hard to believe.

Knarcisi's picture

He's only had 1 opportunity. The train wreck in 2011 with no coaching for him and probation in 2012. 

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I know... it's just hard to believe that can be said about any Buckeye quarterback in recent history...

Knarcisi's picture

Understood. Look at the defense we fielded for him this year too. His situation hasn't been all that great, but like it or not, these are a major part of how a career is marked and remembered. Lets make the best of 2014 for all of us. 

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I'm not sure where to go with this article quite frankly!  Terrelle Pryor had a damn good record of 33 - 6, was 2 -1 in bowl games, 3 - 0 against TTUN, threw for 6177 yards, rushed for 2164 yards, threw 57 TDs to 26 INTs, rushed for 17 TDs and caught 2 TDs.  His completion percentage was 60.7 and an overall rating of 144.6 and even with all those stats, is pretty much hated by the vast majority of Buckeye fans - not this one because I have always been a big fan!
Braxton, on the other hand, has just as gaudy stats and yet we're now tossing out articles questioning his legacy!  Frankly, in my mind (outside of my drunken angry rant after the Orange Bowl game), Braxton's legacy is not in question or limbo - he deserves to be at the top, if not #1.  He has been a model Buckeye that has never had an off the field incident, did not play on a porous defense that couldn't stop a runny nose, did not sell stuff for tats, and has done nothing but keep the Buckeyes in every game!
Again, I get the gist of the article, I'm just not sure I agree with the logic!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

buckeyepastor's picture

I would sum up the article as - 
1.  It was a very tough decision for Miller to return 
2.  The only question mark he has left is in the month of November   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

vball10set's picture

Good post, Arizona_Buckeye, and spot on. I'm thrilled Brax is coming back, as it not only gives us a legitimate shot at the NC, but it allows JT Barrett a year to learn under one of the all-time great Buckeye QB's

Doc's picture

TP was/is a freak of nature. I would have LOVED to see his senior season. The dude was just fun to watch. Right now in my mind Braxton is Pryor Lite. Good, just not quite the same. With that said I'm glad Braxton is back for his senior year, hoping he makes the jump to elite. 

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

bukyze's picture

Just think of what TP could've done if he actually had a quarterback coach.

buckeyepastor's picture

I like his confidence, and he has plenty of reason to believe in himself, but he is not ready for the NFL.  Not as a QB, and while he could choose another position the difference in guaranteed money that goes to QBs vs. other skilled players is worth the effort.   His completion percentage is respectable, but too far south of 70% for the NFL.   
Part of me is glad that he's returning.  But I had sort of made peace with watching next year be a time of "growing pains" for Cardale Jones or JT Barrett.   I hope one or the other of them gets some serious opportunities next year.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Blackbeards Delight's picture

Millers passing (completion% and yardage) will vastly increase with the added element of the SHORT PASS in the offense. Look no further than Tahj Boyd in the bowl game. The overwhelming number of his passing yards were from yacs on short passes and receiver screens. Granted he had a beast receiver but this is The Ohio State University. We had one receiver show up in the bowl game and basically all season. No bueno

"Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr, it's what's for breakfast"

- Me


45has2's picture

Great article, Chris. You treaded lightly yet hit all the correct points. 

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

RB's picture

I fully recognize I have a minority opinion here, and some might consider it blasphomy, but I would not have been too disappointed if Braxton had moved on.  You can give me all the stats, but he has yet to prove himself beyond putting up stats and W's against the crap teams we have played the last two years.  His running skills are amazing, probably the best we will ever see.  However, his passing has not progressed, he can't play hurt and he has consistently come up short when it mattered most.  I REALLY hope he proves me wrong next season, but he needs some signature wins before he cracks the top 5 in terms of OSU QB legacies.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

If you're claiming Miller's passing hasn't gotten any better since he arrived on campus, it's not just a minority opinion, it's factually incorrect.

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

RB's picture

Not to argue with you, but....  2012 vs 2013 last 5 games is equal in terms pass efficiency. No progress in terms of reading defense or making decisions as far as I'm concerned either.

CPDenn's picture

"However, his passing has not progressed, he can't play hurt and he has consistently come up short when it mattered most"
What? Do you even watch this team?

CarolinaBuck's picture

The reason 99% of players, including Braxton, come back for their senior year is because they didn't grade out to be a high enough draft pick in the NFL. If the grade results had come back showing Miller to be a first or second round pick, he would be gone....legacy be damned.

Bamabucknut's picture

I see Miller and Pryor cut from the same cloth.Great athletes who want to play the quarterback position.Their abilities are far more developed in their running than their passing.....and their opponents know this and orient their defensive tactics accordingly.
2014 Offense ? More of the same from Miller.Hopefully we will see a good bit of the 2015 qb candidates for the position get some play time.
2014 Defense ? The changes I have been hoping for in the defensive coaching staff haven't happened yet. We don't know (my guess is by design) who is calling the shots and whether we have a glimmer of hope that we can avoid a disastrous 4th consecutive year of inferior  defense.

buckeyetodd's picture

Maybe too obvious to mention, but the level of competition rises significantly after the first 4 games. Not really a fair comparison. Football is a team game. If you don't have talent around you, much more difficult to be successful.


stcburn's picture

I think Braxton always leaves it on the field, tries his damnedest to win the game. His field sight and passing accuracy probably biggest question marks. Sure a National Championship, Bowl win or Conference Championship would be nice. If he goes 3-1 against scUM wins the B1G makes a nice run at the NC he will own all records at tOSU. His legacy will be cemented in Buckeye history and if all those goals aren't reached, he'll still be one of the best QB's to wear scarlet and gray. Anyone that thinks other wise is crazy. Sometimes you don't get your cake and eat it too.

CPDenn's picture

Maybe Braxton would have a different legacy in certain Buckeye fan's minds if he had a defense. The 'zero conference championships and bowl wins' thing holds no weight for me given the circumstances of his first two years. 2011 was a lost year, and winning a Gator Bowl doesn't add to anything.

NitroBuck's picture

I'm a glass half full kind of guy, and am very happy that Braxton will be back.  A little more incremental progress with his passing game should serve both the Buckeyes and Braxton well.  Incremental progress as in continuing his improvement in footwork, mechanics, reads and progressions.  More importantly in my mind is working when to put a little touch on the ball as opposed to gunning it in there.  Doing those thing should improve his accuracy and productivity, as well as help give him the confidence needed to avoid a late season slump.  The Buckeyes will likely not have quite as dominating a running game next season, so this will be his chance to shine on a more passing oriented team.  Also, I expect to see a much more solid defense next year, so there will not be quite so heavy of a burden on the offense to carry the day.  I can't wait to see how it all plays out next fall. 

Ferio.  Tego.

Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed Nitro - Adversity brings resilience in natural leaders. Braxton coming back was the right move but he will be a different QB next year and one with more offensive weapons. Yes the running game will taper off a little but we will have eze and company with another year and more explosive WR's


Brax has really been the face of the Ohio State football return to success after the dark days. If anyone deserves to go out on top it's him.
The WR play improves it will help Brax a lot in his improvement curve, but in the end it will fall on Brax's shoulders to improve his mechanics and feel for the game. It's the only way he can get over that hump. We all know he can run but as we learned this season, teams will limit his running and dare Brax to beat them with his arm. He has GOT to learn to make them pay for that through the air.
If anyone has the ability to learn from his mistakes it's Braxton Miller. He's improved leaps and bounds since his first start as a freshman. Hope he visits Coach Whitfield again in the offseason and enters spring practice breathing fire.

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

fanfarris's picture

Why is taking so long to have an official announcement about the new CO-DC ,secondary coach or whatever??Does anyone know?


Crimson's picture

They're probably waiting for the job posting to close.  Next business day is Tuesday.

Nutinpa's picture

What Miller needs to learn....and I am not sure if he ever will owing to his aversion to hits (and maybe his direction from Herman and Meyer) is to pass under duress or with a DL draped on him.  He rarely waits until the last second to throw a pass and has a tendency to rush his throws, especially in the Red Zone.  I think what NFL scouts are looking to see is if he can make passes when the pocket collapses instead of running.  So far, he hasn't.  It's made me marvel at other, opposing QBs when they do that vs. Ohio State and it reminds me.... Miller doesn't.  
To be fair....next year without KG, Miller will be the Franchise again.  He can't or shouldn't take any more hits than necessary, so I am not even sure if he learns this skill next year. Separately, I have seen enough of his passes get swatted down at the LOS.  If Meyer and Herman do not create space for him by rolling him in the pocket to take some pressure off the O Line and let him see the field, then it's on them.  
So yes, we will all be anxious to see how Miller grows next season.  I, for one, will also be anxious to see how Herman progresses as well.  As our "boy genius", he has shown a tendency to be neutralized or fail against elite defenses in the 4th quarter.  

Bloombergl's picture

Has anyone else wondered if those nike gloves brax puts on when the weather dips below maybe 50 degrees causes him to grip the ball differently and lose all sorts of accuracy?  Whenever I see those gloves, I assume it'll be an off day in the passing game.

Deadly Nuts's picture

If it affected his passing then he wouldn't wear them.


ScarletNGrey01's picture

Braxton could very possibly make huge strides in his senior season, these are young men and that sometimes happens.  There are a number of QB's in the NFL who are mobile as well as having a good arm, I don't think Brax should become a 100% pocket passer like Troy Smith did in his senior year, but of course he needs to greatly improve his passing game.  The middle third of this season I thought he had made that breakthrough, his passing was crisp, tight spiral and accurate.  Maybe next season he will be able to consistently pass like that ALL season long.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

theshoe's picture

We all know that over the past two years, Braxton has had trouble staying healthy, and I'd hate to be the pessimist, but how exactly is that going to get any better in the NFL where even the most healthy player obtain injuries on occasion?  I don't want the same thing to happen to Braxton as it did to Beanie.

PittBuckeye's picture

I'm curious how the play calling changes, the offense is going to be different next year minus Carlos Hyde, and I hope less designed runs for Brax.

Bamabucknut's picture

I'm interested to see...who else besides Braxton gets playing time at QB.

jamesrbrown322's picture

I still say he is one of the greats Buckeyes ever. He is a phenomenal college football player. However, as a QB, he has a ways to go. I love having him at that position, but I also wonder if his greatest strength, running, has taken a toll on his willingness and ability to throw. I trust that he will remedy this in the off-season, become 3 time Big Ten MVP, improve his draft stock, and be in NYC during the Heisman Trophy presentation.
How far the team goes, however, will depend very much on the defensive side of the ball, and the ability of the WRs to begin to make more plays. I know what we'll get from Miller, but what can we expect from everyone else?
As the QB, the destiny, and outcome, of this season, fall squarely on his shoulders, although perhaps they shouldn't. I love having Brax at QB, and just look forward to enjoying one final year watching a great player, Buckeye, and by all accounts, wonderful young man, graduate from the institution that we all know and love" The Ohio State University - second to none.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Crumb's picture

I got faith in Braxton. He has not given me any reason not to believe in him. He won 24 straight. Beat that team up north twice. And we can second guess him all we want but he leaves it all out there on the field. Even in these last two losses where his passing wasn't his best I don't think you can blame him alone for either loss. He'll be spectacular this fall.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Braxton scored 7 TDs in the last two games, and Ohio State lost both games. That's not on him.

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

Poison nuts's picture

Right, but I'd also say that I'd rather he was getting the ball in the hands of others, and not having to score that many TD's on his own. I like that he can put the game on his shoulders, but as we've seen - when you play the truly good teams, one man, regardless of ability, is just not going to win the game.

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

bleedscarlet's picture

QB is the one position where a players head is more important than athletic ability. A QB can be successful with a so-so arm and not much mobility if he has command of an offensive scheme and can make players around him better. Meyer is constantly preaching leadership but I have yet to hear him call out Miller for being a great leader. THAT'S a problem.  Until we see Miller on the sideline firing up the line, working with receivers or waiting to be in the ear of the D when they come off the field, I don't see how he could be considered a GOAT Buckeye QB. What we needed to see was him all over the secondary last season and the DBs shutting up and listening because he's the general. Not to say he should tell them how to play their position but rather telling them to get their shit together and get the job done. I'm not trying to dog on him, he's never done anything to embarrass the university, but unless the intangibles close the gap on the athleticism he shouldn't be considered the best Buckeye QB ever.

Slingin' swag since 1970


CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article Chris.  Just goes to show how important next year is for Braxton's legacy!
I have a feeling it will all come together next year!
Go Bucks!!

harleymanjax's picture

Braxton needs to get better at touch passes and leading his receivers! In the Orange Bowl, the TD to Heuerman was way underthrown and the last interception would have been a TD if he put some air under it.

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

Key things for Braxton to have his best year passing....

  • Work on his mechanics and reading defenses
  • Develop a chemistry with his receivers...this was imminent with T. Smith and his receivers
  • Receivers will HAVE to get better with separation and route running...this means D. Smith and E. Spencer
  • It would be in the best interest of the coaches to tweak the playbook a little to get D. Wilson involved in the passing game more. Much like mentioned earlier...Boyd's YAC throws were a huge contributor to his stats in the Orange Bowl. If D. Wilson gets the ball in short yardage and then turns it into YAC....Braxton's numbers improve.

It's going to be a long time before we ever see a receiver corps as good as Ginn, Gonzo, and Holmes. If you could only imagine what our offense would be like with those 3 receivers + Dontre + Eze + Miller = A disaster waiting to rip any defense in the country.

ghalephoto's picture

I have been fortunate enough to photo Braxton the last 3 years and the one thing nobody talks about is his disposition on the field.  Before, during and after the game Baxton has more fun than anybody else.  He jokes, pushes his teammates around and is constantly in a fellow Buckeye's ear saying something that is obviously funny.  When its time to play I think he uses that to excel and to put him in a frame of mind he feels he needs to be.  When that all goes away and he stops having fun and works is when he struggles, he thinks to much, try's to do to much.  He needs that one person to stay in his ear and remind him to keep having fun.  Who that person is needs to be Braxton Miller, he masters that he will be just fine.

Nutinpa's picture

No reason to doubt you, ghale, especially as you were an eye witness to what was going on - on the sidelines nad in the games.
I will say this though...not even trying to play devil's advocate:  Miller played his best and most complete football this year when he returned from injury in the Wisconsin game when the team and Buckeye Nation were rallying around Kenny Guiton and Miller's position as "the man" on this team was momentarily threatened and questioned.
Lastly....he'll need that voice in his ear as you suggest.  Because the two losses the Buckeyes suffered this year with their legacy on the line came in the 4th quarter of both games when Miller could not produce and the coaches did not put him or the Offense in a position to win. While the Defense dropped the ball on this team, we enter next season not knowing...really not knowing as of yet, if Miller can put this team on his back and carry them.  I would suggest we KNEW that about Troy Smith and after the Sugar Bowl win and before the Tatgate fiasco, we knew it about Pryor too, baggage and all.   With Miller...there is still reason to wonder. Is it August yet?  Go Bucks!

Toilrt Paper's picture

If for no other reason, Braxton coming back is the best thing that could have happened for Ohio State football for 4 years into the future. Would you rather have a Redshirt Freshman starting next year who has ZERO plays on the field with a true Freshman his backup? Braxton coming back means the 2015-2016 starting QB will get reps in practice and reps on the field next year. Collier can redshirt and learn. REGARDLESS of OSU's record next year. It is best for QB #2, #3 and #4 and Ohio State football into the future.

BuckeyeJAK's picture

Friendly Advise: Revisit  QB Guru George Whitfield jr.

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