It doesn’t take long to go from prized to scrutinized as a five-star recruit at Ohio State.
That was how 2020 went for Harry Miller. The No. 30 overall prospect in the 2019 recruiting class was expected to be an immediate standout in his sophomore season as the Buckeyes’ starting left guard. Instead, his play was underwhelming. He struggled enough in Ohio State’s first six games of the season that he didn’t get his starting job back for the national championship game after missing the Sugar Bowl against Clemson due to COVID-19.
Going into his junior year at Ohio State, though, Ohio State coach Ryan Day and left tackle Thayer Munford are both as confident as ever that Miller can be a star on the Buckeyes’ interior offensive line – in part because of how hard they’ve seen him work this offseason.
Munford said he has seen Miller using The Difference – the striking machine created by former Ohio State linebacker (and current Jacksonville Jaguars head strength and conditioning coach) Anthony Schlegel – every day after summer workouts to improve his hand placement and technique as he prepares for the 2021 season.
“Just trying to make sure like, ‘Alright, I’m not gonna do the same mistake I did against Rutgers or the same mistake against Northwestern,’ or any other team,” Munford said of Miller. “Just to make sure he’s ahead of the learning curve.”
Day said he has consistently gotten great reports from Ohio State director of sports performance Mickey Marotti about how Miller has acquitted himself in summer workouts.
“He’s talked about Harry Miller a bunch,” Day said. “Said he’s had an unbelievable summer.”
Going into preseason camp, it’s still not exactly clear where Miller will line up for the Buckeyes this season. He missed spring practices after undergoing shoulder surgery, leaving Luke Wypler and Matthew Jones to take the first-team reps at center and Josh Fryar to take most of the first-team reps at left guard. Paris Johnson Jr. appears to be the clear frontrunner to start at right guard, but Miller could potentially slide in at center or remain at left guard.
At Friday’s Big Ten Media Days, Day wouldn’t specify which position he expects Miller to play in 2021. That’s still to be determined in preseason camp, when he’ll go through his first full-contact practices of the year. And Day isn’t concerned about cross-training him between positions as needed, believing Miller can play all three interior line positions comfortably as long as he can play center.
“I think when you’re playing interior line, the center’s the hardest one. I think the guard is an easier transition,” Day said. “Where he’s at, we’ll know once he starts hitting.”
What would be a big surprise, however, is if Miller doesn’t start this year. While Jones, Wypler and Fryar are all in the mix for starting jobs, too, Ohio State has talked about Miller as if he’ll be a starter dating back to the spring, when offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said he “would assume” Miller will be one of Ohio State’s best five up front.
Day, who listed Miller alongside Munford, defensive end Zach Harrison, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive back Lathan Ransom as players who had been standouts in summer workouts, says Miller is “physically much further ahead than where he was at this point last year,” even after being sidelined for part of the offseason.
“He's really changed his body,” Day said. “Looks great.”
Munford knows what it’s like to be in Miller’s shoes. Though he wasn’t as highly touted of a recruit, Munford also become a starter for the Buckeyes as a true sophomore, and he had his ups and downs over his first couple of seasons as the starting left tackle. So he gave Miller some sage advice after last year’s game against Rutgers, when Miller was flagged for three holding penalties: Stay off social media and block out the outside noise.
“I went through that. Me with the Wisconsin game, when we first played them in 2019, I was getting bashed because I gave up a sack. And I’m like, ‘Dang, this is not good. Let me calm down, let me get off Twitter real quick, just calm myself down so I won’t get overwhelmed as much,’” Munford recalled. “Don’t get on Twitter. Do not get on your social media at all. Just let it ride. Critique yourself a little bit harder. See what you need to do better.”
At Ohio State, even top-rated offensive line prospects often have to wait until their third years to become full-time starters, including recently departed stars Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis and current starting right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere. Miller didn’t have as much time to develop before his first year as a starter, and that showed last season. Yet while fans’ expectations for Miller might actually be higher if he hadn’t been a starter in 2020 – because they wouldn’t have seen him struggle – the experience he gained could set him up for more success in 2021.
“Played his second year, very hard to do at Ohio State,” Day said. “So I think with a year under his belt and going through what he did last year, he’s gonna be much further along and expecting a high level of play.”