Overreliance on Braxton Miller?

Run_Fido_Run's picture
October 8, 2012 at 10:58a

Braxton Miller is the Ohio State offense. That's what we're hearing every week from pundits and announcers, opposing players and coaches. After Miller racked up 315 of Ohio State's 383 total offensive yards against Michigan State, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi lamented, "He is their offense . . .  we just didn’t make enough plays on him.”

No question, the Buckeyes offense revolves around Braxton Miller. Ideally, as we've discussed many times on this blog, the Buckeyes will continue to diversify their offense, develop other playmakers, and find ways to reduce hits and/or overreliance on Braxton. Nevertheless, I wonder if this theme (Miller = Ohio State offense) is a bit overblown. It's typical for an elite QB - whether he is primarily a passer, a runner, or a dual threat - to be involved in a relatively high percentage of his team's offensive production.

Among the current top 25 players (all QBs) in total offense per game, nine other QBs rank higher than Braxton Miller in terms of their individual offensive production as a percentage of their team's total offense:

1. Denard Robinson (Michigan) = 0.816
2. Zac Dysert (Miami OH) = 0.808
3. Jordan Lynch (Northern Ill.) = 0.749
4. B.J. Daniels (South Fla.) = 0.740
5. Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) = 0.727
6. Geno Smith (West Virginia) = 0.722
7. Nick Florence (Baylor) = 0.722
8. Stephen Morris (Miami FL) = 0.710
9. Sean Mannion (Oregon St.) = 0.708
10. Braxton Miller (Ohio St.) = 0.704
11. Matt Scott (Arizona) = 0.703
12. Rakeem Cato (Marshall) = 0.702
13. David Piland (Houston) = 0.700
14. Brett Smith (Wyoming) = 0.692
15. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) = 0.689
16. Dalton Williams (Akron) = 0.674
17. Kolton Browning (La.-Monroe) = 0.658
18. Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) = 0.642
19. Derek Carr (Fresno St.) = 0.633
20. Tajh Boyd (Clemson) = 0.625
21. Keith Wenning (Ball St.) = 0.621
22. Tyler Bray (Tennessee) = 0.618
23. Brett Hundley (UCLA) = 0.597
24. Cody Fajardo (Nevada) = 0.592
25. Colby Cameron (La Tech) = 0.573

The Buckeyes probably would have relied a little less on Braxton through the first six games if not for a couple of factors: 1). injuries to RBs Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde; 2). early season "growing pains" kept the Buckeyes from blowing out lesser teams (Miami OH and UAB) in the first half, resulting in Miller getting more snaps at the expense of Kenny Guiton. The Buckeyes apparent overreliance on Miller has been a product of early season inconsistencies as much as a lack of other established playmakers.

For comparison, in 2005, Vince Young had other playmakers like J. Charles, Selvin Young, Limas Sweed, and Billy Pittman. For the season, Young was responsible for 61-percent of his team's total offense, which is below Braxton's current pace. However, Texas outscored its opponents 50.2 to 16.4 per game, so the Horns were on cruise control in the second halves of many games that year. In their two most competitive games, Young was responsible for 91-percent of his team's offense at Ohio State and 84-percent against USC in the Rose Bowl.

Last year, RGIII was responsible for 65-percent of Baylor's offense. In 2008, Sam Bradford had a hand in 62-percent of Oklahoma's total offensive yards.

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buck-I.8's picture

Well here, we see that the presumed leading candidate for Heisman is higher on the scale than Miller. So while it isn't preferable, it's at least marginally feasible.

bassplayer7770's picture

So far, the Offense goes as Braxton Miller goes.  When he isn't breaking out some runs, it seems like our Offense tends to stall.  As you mentioned, the coaches are still trying to develop more playmakers.  To me, it seems clear that we don't have enough elite playmakers with elite football speed that the staff would like to have, but that's why they're going after guys like Jalin, Zeke, and Taivon.
At the same time, Braxton still has some growing to do.  He could make a few better decisions on options, and he could probably learn to scan the entire field for receivers.
It's pretty amazing to think that Braxton still has room to grow because his ceiling is so much higher.

CincyOSU's picture

It's not so much how many yards Braxton produces as a percentage of our offense as it is how defenses have to account for him on EVERY play. As Bassplayer said, our offense goes as Braxton goes. If he struggles, its likely that our offense as a whole will struggle so in that regard we do rely on Braxton a lot. That being said, is it really a bad thing to put the ball in the hands of your most dynamic athlete? I think sometimes the media just gets bored and has to create talking points out of something that really isn't a big deal.

rkylet83's picture

I think once the passing game gets more efficient we'll see the reliance on Braxton Miller's running go down a bit.  In Coach Meyer's offense we'll always be dependent on our QB to be a huge part of the offense, but right now I agree with most that his legs are the catalyst for the offense to get going.
The fun part to think about is once the passing game gets better, the run game will be even more dangerous and frightening for opponents.  Imagine how much damage Braxton will do on the ground when the defense has to worry about defending precise short and intermediate passes!

the419's picture

an awful lot of those players are stars on high scoring spread offenses, or are rushing quarterbacks that make things happen when their receivers dont get open.
braxton is a lot of the offense because our WRs suck. if he couldnt run, he would just take sacks like bauserman did last year. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Bass and Cincy: good points, but then you have to apply the same points to the other QBs on the list.
First, these analysts aren't simply saying that WVU and Baylor have more prolific offenses than Ohio State - that is true, but not being disputed. They're suggesting that what offense Ohio State does have - 44 in total offense and 22 in scoring offense - is "all Braxton." Yet, they're not saying that Oregon State's offense - 32 in total offense and 92 in scoring offense- is "all Sean Mannion." 
Second, when Denard Robinson, Dysert, Nick Florence aren't "breaking out" with big runs and/or big passes, I suspect their teams' offenses tend to stall, too.
What would happen to WVU's offense if Geno Smith went down? You can say that they'd still be a pretty good offense, but if they dropped from being a top 3 offense to 30th or 40th best, that'd be a major downgrade.
I do agree, though, that it's awesome when an offense can have multiple elite playmakers. But I don't know if there are any teams that have both multiple elite offensive playmakers (e.g., WVU, Clemson) as well as a championship-caliber defense (e.g., Bama, South Carolina) so I think we need to keep things in perspective is all.    

Urban John Simon Meyer's picture

The general feel I get watching the games is that when Miller is active, the team is active. When he decides to sit a quarter off, the team is listless. That doesn't mean the rest of the offense is doing nothing; the offensive line is out there tearing it up! It means that, as others have said, under Meyer there will always be a huge role for the QB to play. 

chromedomebuck's picture

I wouldn't have it any other way personally. Put the rock in the hand's of your best player (Miller....by far) and let him win some games for you! I'd bet Tebow was a pretty significant chunk of his team's O in his Gator career (though he did Harvin). 
On a side note, I get pretty giddy when I think of Miller developing some consistency with his throwing accuracy/velocity. If he ever gets that "down" (he's already pretty darn good), watch out!

Champions Bleed Scarlet & Gray

hodge's picture

Here's the problem:
Meyer's offense is at its absolute best when he has the dual-threat of a solid up-the-gut runner and a legit speed threat to bounce the ball outside.  This allows constraints to be placed upon defenses trying to "cheat" the offense's run tendencies one way or another.  Meyer's famous squads in Florida accomplished this by utlizing Tim Tebow as an I-back in the spread, and using speed guys like Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, and Percy Harvin as perimeter constraints on the defense.
The issue we have here is that Braxton Miller is an absolute freak of nature.  He has the speed and elusiveness to bounce a run to the outside, but he also compliments that with the vision and acceleration that allowed guys like Boom Herron and Beanie Wells to be such successful backs at Ohio State.  When you combine his physical attributes and RBSR, it becomes obvious that Miller is OSU's best chance to break a run--either up the gut or on the outside.  This is why so much of the offense flows through our man behind center.  
The other factor relating to Miller's high percentage of our offense is due to the simple fact that his athleticism has been the sole safety valve for Meyer's offensive implimentation.  Put another way, his performance has been the asprin to the offense's growing pains.  Be it from missed reads, bad blocks, wrong routes, or missed receivers, this offense has shown that it has a steep learning curve.  This team reminds me a lot of that '04 squad, learning and developing the scheme and skills that would eventually turn it into a world-beating powerhouse.  In all honesty, we should have lost a few games up to this point--we've just been blessed with a fantastic game-breaking quarterback whose sheer athleticism has bailed us out of jams time and time again.
Once Miller gets this offense down pat (and it seems that he's coming along nicely), he'll be making zone-reads in his sleep, his option pitches will always be correct, and his passes will be on-target with frightening consistency (as well as the rest of his offense making the same strides that he has).  But not this year.  This year, Miller's going to be the offense, because he has to get us to that aforementioned stage next year: when we win a championship, and Brax goes to New York.

ih8rolltyde's picture

Agree, but I do believe you will see Brax in New York this year. He won't win it, but he will get to experience the trip. Make him a lil more hungry to go get it in '13.

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

bassplayer7770's picture

I agree with Hodge about having a power runner to go along with Braxton, but Meyer made it clear he still wants more players who are "horizontal threats."  Just imagine our Offense with a few more players who are just as dangerous as Braxton.  We haven't even seen Jordan Hall much in this Offense yet.

lippertini's picture

Brax takes too many hits for me to feel comfortable that he'll be healthy enough to play a full season.  Kenny G. is a capable backup from what I can see, but he's obviously no Brax.  I'd feel better about Brax going out if I knew our WRs were getting open regularly against better competition.  How did they do Saturday?

Bucksfan's picture

This stuff about too much reliance on Braxton might be the most nitpicky criticism of a college football offense that I've ever heard.  I guess if that's the case, we're going to have to say that '95 Nebraska was too reliant on Tommy Frazier, '84 Boston College was too reliant on Doug Flutie, '44 Ohio State was too reliant on Les Horvath (when he ranked 3rd in the country in total offense, btw)...the list goes on and on and on and on.  It's ridiculous.
When a player like Braxton Miller comes along, you USE HIM!  This is college football, after all.  He sores points, gets first downs, and tires out defenses.  He's a unique kind of weapon that you're lucky to get once every 25 years or more.  I honestly can't think of someone this dynamic at Ohio State since Hopalong Cassady.  He might never be an NFL passer, but let's hypothetically say that he was an NFL calibur passer...he'd be throwing for 300 yards a game and still running for 100+ yards a game....and his % of the offense would only go higher.
The media and the analysts can't simply let a player at Ohio State be good and enjoy it.  No one is saying this about Geno Smith, or said it about VY or Griffin 3, or Tebow, or, or, or...etc.  Only at Ohio State and only with Urban Meyer are we risking too much with Braxton Miller.  Whatever.

M Man's picture

We're Number One!

tennbuckeye19's picture

Needless to say, I am very curious to see UM's offense post-Denard. 

M Man's picture

No need for you to have said that.  We've asked 14 members of the Arizona Wildcats offense to transfer, offering them graduate studies that are not available in Tucson.
Actually, we'll have some very good personnel all set to go in 2013.  At QB, it will be Russell Bellomy (Redshirt Sophomore), Shane Morris (True Freshman) or Devin Gardner (Wide Reciever).

Nkohl13's picture

The heisman goes to the best player in college football. The way I understand it it isnt the best player on the best team, its a player that puts the team on his back and is the reason that team wins games. I feel like being a high percentage of your teams total offense would be a good indicator of that.

rkylet83's picture

To quote John McKay (on running O.J. Simpson so much)
On O.J. Simpson carrying the ball 47 times in a USC game: "He doesn't belong to a union. Anyway, the ball doesn't weigh that much."
Quote before 69 Rose Bowl when asked why do you run O.J. Simpson so much: "When you have a big gun you shoot it as early and often as possible"

chitown buckeye's picture

@Rkylet83 great quote. I agree to this philosphy to an extent. I understand you dont want braxton to get hurt but the fact is when you have a talent like that you use it. If we sat back and never ran him or put him on a run count and once he has reached his carries "no more", people would be up in arms if we lost the game.
I believe when you have a great talent you use it and let the chips fall where they may. You have to trust that Braxton understands when he needs to take hits and when he needs to get out of bounds. (I think RG3 may have set a learning example this week). I think if he is 80% of our offense in the big games, Im fine with that. Chances are he is the best player on the field. The important thing to me is in the coming weeks how do we work him. No reason for him to take unnessary hits in the indiana game for example. I think we will see his rushing production drop off in the next few weeks just to get him some rest. Although who knows if he breaks a couple of big ones.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

HighBallAce's picture

I think it's a little more of a big deal than people realize! Especially when they get more playmakers like Jalin Marshall and Ezekiel Elliot! I have a fear that that can go one of two ways.
1. They'll be awesome.
2. They won't be able to play as a "team." They'll have all the playmakers in the world but they won't be able to play together.
I hope the later isn't the case.

Toilrt Paper's picture

If Braxton gets hurt its more likely to come on a pass play. Someone has him by the leg and D-lineman will try to make a pretzel out of him. Braxton is a marked man. It was VERY obvious im the MSU game.

tampa buckeye's picture

MSU was taking cheap shots on the sidelines. That was some bullshit.  Say a lot about their coaching staff.  

Et_Tu_OSU's picture

Dennis Dixon.  Hands-down Heisman winner...right up until his season was ended because he took too many hits.
I love Braxton and we need him to run (hell, he's more Lethal Weapon than Mel Gibson and Danny Glover combined), but right now that's the only thing our offense does consistently well and sooner or later he's going to get broken (he's already dodged at least 3 bullets this year).  If he finishes the season, we go undefeated and he'll go to NY (won't win agains the WV QB's video game stats), but we've gotta find something else we can do consistently well for that to happen.

"The revolution will be televised."

d5k's picture

Torn acl isn't really an accumulation of hits injury for Dixon. Were we worried about Eddie George running too much? This topic is beyond overblown.

Toilrt Paper's picture

Ohio State could consistently lose well if Braxton never runs. The biggest problem has been Jordon Hall's injuries.

HighBallAce's picture

Braxton is a ninja!