Harris Expects Big Things From Miller
Buckeye QB Could Thrive in Meyer’s Offense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In his first season at Ohio State, Braxton Miller became one of the most electrifying young quarterbacks in the country.
Now he will be playing in one of the most exciting offenses in the country.
Urban Meyer won’t officially start coaching the Buckeyes until after their bowl game, but the combination of his explosive spread offense and Miller’s dynamic dual-threat ability would appear to be a match made in football heaven.
That’s the way Josh Harris sees it.
“I've said before and I'll say it again, I think the sky is the limit,” Harris said of Miller.
“Braxton Miller is an amazing talent and I think that was probably apparent even when he was coming out of high school. It’s definitely fertile soil. With Braxton Miller now being combined with a wonderful football mind like Urban Meyer, I look forward to seeing it.”
For those who don’t remember the name Josh Harris, he experienced first-hand what kind of impact Meyer’s coaching could have. Harris was the quarterback at Bowling Green when Meyer took his first head-coaching job back in 2001.
He quickly became the triggerman for one of the most exhilarating new offenses in college football.
“It's super fun, it's just exciting,” said Harris, who rushed for 2,473 yards with a school-record 43 touchdowns at Bowling Green.
“It takes on different forms, different shapes, just depending on the game, the time of the game, the situation, and depending on what's needed and what defense you are facing. The offense is similar to a chameleon it takes on whatever shape is necessary for it to experience success.”
Harris experienced almost instantaneous success under Meyer, and so did the Falcons, but it didn’t come easy. Meyer had to reshape the mentality of an entire program, and find a way to re-sculpt the bodies of his players.
Meyers’ methods were often extreme, and more than 20 players transferred, but Harris was ready to be a part of something special. He knew the culture had to change of the Falcons were going to improve on their 2-9 season from 2000.
It didn’t happen overnight, but Harris worked hard to learn Meyer’s new system and before long, the two had the Falcons up and flying again for the first time since 1992.
“There are things you’re going to be comfortable with a lot faster than other things. There’s a lot of familiarity with the things you’re doing, it’s just the way you’re doing it is a little bit different,” Harris said of Meyer’s spread offense.
“To give you an idea, that same team was 2-9 before Urban Meyer got there and 8-3 the next year, so how long do you think?”
In his head-coaching debut, Meyer led Bowling Green to a 20-13 victory over Missouri on Faurot Field. The Falcons finished 31st in the country in scoring offense and Harris completed 61 percent of his passes for over 1,000 yards, while rushing for 600 more and accounting for 17 touchdowns.
As a junior in 2002, Harris threw for 19 touchdowns, ran for 20 more and even caught a pair of scores as Meyer’s offense really hit its stride. Bowling Green started the season 8-0, including a 51-28 win over Missouri. They scored 72 points in a win over Ohio University and averaged over 40 points per game that season.
Some have argued that Meyer only had that kind of success because Harris was so good at running his new offense. The same was said about Meyer with Alex Smith at Utah and Tim Tebow at Florida.
“I would say that we were all just as lucky to have him as he was to have us,” Harris said.
“Obviously it takes a lot to be a great player and a lot to be a great coach. When you put the two together, that's when you experience great things. I had just as much of a chance of succeeding as I did of failing. I worked really hard to get to where I got, the same way that coach Meyer worked really hard to get to where he got.”
Now he is back home in the job he has always wanted, and once again, he has the perfect quarterback to execute his system.
“He has a lot of upside. He’s really young and he played on a young team, a team that experienced a lot of things other teams didn’t have to do deal with,” Harris said of Braxton Miller.
“He held his own. He performed well. He performed under fire, under pressure, on the biggest stage in maybe the biggest rivalry in all of sports. He definitely showed up. He never shied away from that competition, and those are the kinds of things coach Meyer is looking for.”
Harris spent last season playing with the Marion Blue Racers, an expansion team in the Continental Indoor Football League (CIFL). In the off-season he works as a salesman in Columbus, where he lives with his wife, who ran track at Ohio State. He is keeping is fingers crossed that Meyer might ask him to come and work with Miller.
“I have not been contacted about getting involved with coach Meyer's staff,” Harris explained.
“What I can say is that I loved being on his team before and he's a guy that I have a lot of respect for both on and off the field, even to a personal level. He and his family are people that I really appreciate.”
As for Miller, the future could be even brighter than it was before.
“Just soak it all up and get better every day. That's all coach Meyer is going to ask you to do is get better every day,” Harris said.
“Coach Meyer breaks the game down to its simplest form. The idea is to get better every day and to perform to the expectation level that is expected of you. That expectation is set based on your ability, because if it's not you, it will be somebody else.
“The good news is that Braxton has a lot of tools. I think there's a great chance that this is a match made in heaven.”
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