Miller likes OSU skill

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Last updated: 08/05/2012 3:22 PM
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Braxton Miller Likes What He Sees in OSU Skill Players
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A year ago the Ohio State offense battled youth, injuries and suspensions in a season of utter disappointment. In terms of yardage, the 2011 offense was the school's worst in over two decades.

This year, however, the suspensions are gone, players are healthy, and most everybody is a year older.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

Most notably among those players is quarterback Braxton Miller, who was put into a nearly impossible situation last season and asked to bail out a dormant offense third and long after third and long.

Miller may only be a sophomore now, but he has been around long enough to see the progress in himself, as well as his teammates.

Head coach Urban Meyer has also seen that progress, which likely is a large reason he called Miller the most dynamic quarterback he has ever coached.

Miller doesn't let the pressure of such a statement get to him, instead he uses it as motivation for what he can become.

"When he says stuff like that to me, I just soak it in," he said. "The sky's the limit. So I'm just going to keep working on my craft, and I just want to be the best that I can be."

Miller worked with his receivers in the offseason on their own time, focusing on coming out of breaks better, as well as working on his own accuracy to become a more complete passer. In fact, when asked if he was now a passer first and a scrambler second, he replied simply, "Yeah".

That ability to become a passer first is dependent upon the players around him stepping up, which is something that he is pretty confident in.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Dan Harker
Braxton Miller

"I'd see them in the morning at workouts at six in the morning," he said, detailing the offseason. "And then after that we'd come back in the afternoon after class and work in here for like an hour.

"They know what they're doing since they take the time and watch film and go over the playbook with me. So everything's coming along smoothly."

Despite the optimism, the offense was dealt a potentially serious blow when tailback Jordan Hall cut his foot a month ago, which won't enable the Buckeyes to practice with their full arsenal until the season has already begun.

"You know, he was the starting 'H', and the freak accident with his foot, everybody was down about it," Miller said. "He's getting better day by day. I hope he comes back before the first game."

As far as who replaces Hall's skillset, Miller wasn't sure.

"We've still gotta figure out who's got that juice to them," he said.

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

While Miller doesn't yet know who will replace Hall early in the season, he does know that the running game is in fine hands with the likes of junior Carlos Hyde.

Hyde, who rushed for 400 yards in the first six games last season, finished with just 166 more the rest of the season once Boom Herron returned from suspension.

Hyde's early-season success last year gave people a glimpse of what he is capable of, but Miller says there's even more to come.

"He's slimmed down a little bit. He got all of that jelly fat off of him. He's more muscle this year. It's off the charts how good he could be. It's just how he takes it in and how he practices."

Miller's confidence in the Hyde is almost as high as it is in his receivers. One of the stars of spring football was freshman receiver Michael Thomas, but it was no surprise to Miller.

Michael Thomas
Photo by Dan Harker
Mike Thomas

"We played in the Under Armour All-American game down in Florida, and he did good down there," he explained. "Coming from L.A. to Ohio, he made a big transition. He works hard all the time too."

Thomas' emergence may not have been a surprise to Miller, but that doesn't mean he still wasn't impressed. Two other receivers have impressed Miller over the offseason as well, and when asked to name a player or two who made the biggest improvement from last year to this year, Miller didn't hesitate to answer.

"There was two of them. The first one is Devin [Smith]," he said. "Sometimes he'd get antsy, sometimes he'd get lazy, but now he's determined to get better and he just wants to be the best that he can be. He talks about it every day."

Devin Smith
Photo by Dan Harker
Devin Smith

Despite being a true freshman last season, Smith still led the team in receptions (14) and yardage (294), while also leading the wide receivers in touchdowns with four. Now, his comfort level has increased, and with it, Miller's comfort level in Smith.

The other player that caught Miller's eye?

"Philly," he said. "Philly Brown. He works hard all the time. He's probably the one who's got the juice to him too, you know what I'm saying?"

That "juice" is code for being able to handle some of the duties that were assigned to Jordan Hall this season. Brown battled injuries and inconsistency last year, but if he is going to be involved in handling the ball in the myriad ways that are planned for Hall, then that speaks volumes for where Miller and the coaches see Brown moving forward.

Overall, Miller likes what he has seen from the weapons around him, and believes that they would pose a tough matchup for even the best defenses.

Philly Brown
Photo by Jim Davidson
"Philly" Brown

"I feel like we're good right now," Miller said of the skill players around him. "If we go out there and play against our defense, I think we'd win."

When asked if he would say the same thing to All-Big Ten defensive end John Simon, Miller was as confident with his answer as he is with his receivers and running backs.

"I'll go tell him right now," he said matter-of-factly, then laughed and re-thought his stance.

"Nah, I ain't gonna tell him."

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