Braxton Miller Still Struggling With Read-Option
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Braxton Miller is only a sophomore.
Photo by Jim Davdson
It is important to remember that fact amidst the eye-popping numbers Ohio State’s quarterback is putting up in Urban Meyer’s spread attack – which is part power, part get Braxton in space and let him do what he does.
Through seven games this year, Miller has rushed for 912 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging over seven yards a carry. He also has 1,200 yards passing and 11 touchdowns through the air, but it’s Miller’s ground game that has him right near the top of everyone’s Heisman Trophy list right now.
He is sixth in the country in rushing, and only Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch has racked up more yards on the ground among quarterbacks. If he keeps up this pace, Miller will eclipse the 1,500-yard mark this season, which would put him in the top seven all-time for single-season rushers in OSU history.
The other guys on that list of 1,500-yard rushers: Eddie George, Archie Griffin, Beanie Wells, Keith Byars and Tim Spencer.
Miller (3,742) is also on pace to break Terrelle Pryor’s now-vacated OSU school record (3,526) for total offense, but if there is one area the sophomore QB can really improve it’s his ability to make the proper reads.
According to The-Ozone’s Jeff Amey, who breaks down the Ohio State offense in his weekly By The Numbers feature, the Buckeyes ran 25 plays against Indiana where Miller theoretically had to make a decision whether to keep the ball or give it to a back.
It’s only theoretical at this point because it appears Miller is not making a read on every one those plays, but rather, on occasion, decides before the snap whether he is going to keep the ball or give it to Carlos Hyde or one of the other offensive skill players.
Regardless, there were 25 option-type plays called on Saturday against the Hoosiers, and while Miller excelled at the triple-option plays, he struggled to make the right decision on read-option.
“By my count in this game there were 14 correct reads and 11 missed,” Amey said.
“Keep in mind this is just my opinion, but it appears he struggled badly with the straight read-option with the defensive end. He made only one correct read on the "ride" read, but got all but one right on the triple.”
The Buckeyes averaged 10.3 yards per carry (7 rushes for 72) on triple-option plays – including the opening touchdown on a 12-yard pitch to Corey Brown out of the backfield – but they managed just 3.1 yards per carry (18 for 56) on read and speed option plays.
“He did a pretty good job with the triple option against the Hoosiers,” Amey wrote, “but when they ran the straight zone-read (defensive end) or the slower developing "ride" option where he's reading an inside defensive player, he really struggled with the decision to give or keep.”
Indiana was playing the option very aggressively from outside in, which is why a number of Miller’s decisions to keep the ball resulted in negative yardage for the Buckeyes. That’s an area Miller will to continue to improve, according to OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
“(He’s) above average, but still not where he needs to be,” Herman said.
“It’s just something that experience and practice, he’s got to understand that… pitch the ball, give the ball.”
Miller has been such a dynamic playmaker for the Buckeyes this season, it hardly seems fair to fault him for wanting to hold on to the ball, but he still has to understand how to read what the defense is giving him.
“When it’s gray, you don’t always have to put it on your shoulders,” Herman said.
“Black and white we get. If it’s black you give, if it’s white you keep. When it’s gray, sometimes it calls for just giving it and seeing what your running back can do.”
It may not happen this year, Herman agreed, but at some point he believes Miller will figure out that gray area. When he does, it could take this Ohio State offense to a whole other level, if that’s even possible.
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