Though Harry Miller didn’t have the benefit of graduating high school in the winter and enrolling at Ohio State in January, he didn’t want to fall behind, so he stayed in constant contact with offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and the rest of his future teammates.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder took eight pages of notes, frequently joined position meetings virtually via FaceTime calls, began to understand the details of each play, learned hand signals and delved into pre-snap calls before he even arrived on campus. Miller didn’t make such an effort to prepare himself because he thought he would immediately compete for a starting job. Rather, he simply didn’t want to embarrass himself.
“Really, for me, it's to come in and not look like an idiot,” Miller told Eleven Warriors in early June.
Miller can already consider that mission a success. A wild success.
Not only has he not looked like an idiot, but he has looked like exactly what somebody might expect from a high school valedictorian: a near-genius.
“He's so far ahead mentally,” Studrawa said on Thursday. “He's out there making the checks today in a blitz pickup period that I don't think I've ever had a freshman do. Ever.”
Studrawa hasn’t seen anything like it.
“You guys have seen Harry's been running with the twos. He hasn't missed a step there.”– Branden Bowen on Harry Miller
The offensive line coach is entering his fourth year at Ohio State, coached two years at Maryland, spent seven years at LSU and was at Bowling Green and Arkansas State for nine years. Having coached dozens of freshmen in those two decades coaching linemen, Studrawa believes Miller is just different – and the only player currently ahead of him on the center depth chart agrees.
“He's so smart,” Josh Myers said. “I’ve never seen a young guy pick up on an offense as fast as he has, especially as a center. It's the most impressive thing I've ever seen. I'm not even playing. It's really impressive.”
The starting center means what he says.
“There's just complicated calls and complicated schemes that we have that a true freshman who just got here should have no business knowing and making the calls, and he's doing it,” Myers said. “It's like, 'Dang, all right.'”
Those calls that Miller made in his first week of fall camp? Myers, a redshirt sophomore, said he didn’t know them until last season, in his second year in the program.
Typically, offensive linemen need time to acclimate to the size and speed of college football. Not only must they master a playbook with significantly more intricacies than high school, they also have to overcome the challenge of blocking college defensive linemen who have spent the past one to four years in a strength program. Centers, too, have added responsibilities as the linemen who make the majority of pre-snap calls.
Those natural obstacles all freshman centers face early in their careers haven’t slowed down Miller, who lost his black stripe after Thursday's practice..
Almost immediately, he has become a fixture in the middle of the second-team offensive line. With Myers taking the snaps with the starting offense, Miller led the backup line on Tuesday morning during the most recent portion of practice open to the media.
“You guys have seen Harry's been running with the twos,” Branden Bowen said. “He hasn't missed a step there.”
With Myers ready to play after serving as a reserve for the past two seasons, the front five is set to consist of left tackle Thayer Munford, left guard Jonah Jackson, center Josh Myers, right guard Wyatt Davis and either Nicholas Petit-Frere or Branden Bowen at right tackle. Miller isn't in line to start yet, which is only natural.
Offensive linemen – even Michael Jordan, who started at left guard in 2016 – aren’t meant to start as freshmen at Ohio State. Orlando Pace is the exception, not the rule. If the coaches planned to line Miller up with the starters for the season opener on Aug. 31, which was a possibility had Jonah Jackson not transferred from Rutgers to Ohio State, it would have been a risk, even though he’s far from the typical freshman.
Instead of competing to start, Miller is in the mix to be the No. 2 center, a job he has a distinct possibility to win.
“I don't know if he should be (backup center). I think that he has the ability to,” Day said. “I think he's going to have to continue to grow as the season goes on. I do see him getting on the field. How much will be dependent upon our depth, injuries, how the season goes, a lot of different things, and how he develops in the next couple weeks. But he has the ability. He's very intelligent. He can process, he can bend, he can do those things.
“We have a couple guys in there that are candidates to be the backup center, but right now he's doing a good job. He's learning quickly, and I think once we get through this week we'll have a better idea, but so far he's fit in good. He understands it.”
Studrawa took that one step further.
Not only does he think Miller has the ability to win the backup center spot as a true freshman, but he’s rooting for that to happen.
“That's what I'm hoping for,” Studrawa said. “I'm hoping it's not Matt Jones. I'm hoping it's not Jonah Jackson. I'm hoping it's not Gavin Cupp, who's snapping now, all for precautionary reasons. I'm hoping by the time we get to that first game, ‘Hey, Harry's the backup.’ If something happens or Josh gets something, 'Get out and get in there,' and the kid can do it.”
The early results have been nothing but positive for Miller.
With full pads now coming on and scrimmages on the horizon, he has a chance to secure a spot on the two-deep depth chart in coming weeks.