Meyer Not on Braxton’s Heisman Bandwagon Just Yet
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If Braxton Miller continues on the pace he’s at right now, Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback will finish the season with over 2,400 yards through the air and another 1,500 on the ground.
Photo by Dan Harker
Those numbers, coupled with the number of touchdowns Miller is racking up on a weekly basis, would put him in right in the hunt for a Heisman Trophy during his first season in Urban Meyer’s spread offense.
Miller currently ranks 10th in the country in rushing after three games. He has a quarterback rating of 151.82 this season, but he’s still lacking one critical vote for any type of legitimate Heisman Trophy campaign.
“Oh, I don't think he's played enough,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said Monday.
“I've been lucky to have three guys go to New York – or be Heisman candidates, just two went, but three or four have been mentioned and all of that. I think at the appropriate time, I won’t say he's not. I don't believe he is now. He hasn’t been playing well enough yet.”
Maybe not by Meyer’s standards.
He was the coach of the Florida Gators back in 2007, when Tim Tebow became the first sophomore in the history of college football to walk away with the sport’s most prestigious individual honor.
Photo by Dan Harker
It was only one year after Ohio State’s Troy Smith had captured the award as the senior leader on the undefeated 2006 Buckeyes – a team which was drilled in the BCS title game by Meyer, Tebow and a hungry Florida Gators team.
If Miller can continue his torrid pace in 2012, he would destroy the numbers Smith put up as the Heisman Trophy winner back in ’06. He has a long way to go considering the season is not even a third of the way through, but Meyer likes what he’s seen from youngster as the triggerman of his offense this season.
“I am pleased with his progress,” Meyer said Monday during his weekly press luncheon.
“The fact that we're completing some deep balls – I know it's not enough – but we're completing some deep balls and some real deep balls. Those two throws he made were grown man throws, I like to call them. The two to Devin Smith were about as good of a throw as any quarterback in the country can make, and that is marked improvement.”
Photo by Dan Harker
Miller is completing 61-percent of his passes this season, compared to just 54-percent a year ago as a rookie. He’s more than halfway to his rushing total from a year ago and needs just two more touchdowns on the ground to match his rookie season.
Miller didn’t start for the Buckeyes a year ago until he was forced into action against Colorado in week four after senior Joe Bauserman had to be replaced during Ohio State’s 24-6 loss at Miami.
“He was a much different player than he was a year ago, and that's just coming from Stan Drayton who was on the staff a year ago, because I didn't know,” Meyer said this week.
“Braxton Miller showed up at training camp (last year) and wasn't in that conversation about playing. Ability‑wise, he should have been. So that tells you he wasn't a great practice player. That's where I think he's improved the most.”
According to Meyer, Miller is a ‘freak athlete’ who has gotten away with relying solely on his athletic ability from the time he first picked up a football. He was the best player on the field in little league, in middle school and at Wayne High School. Even today, he’s typically the best player on the field, but the game changes when you get to the college level.
“Now Cal has guys as fast as Braxton, because we're challenged,” Meyer added.
“So that's where I'm probably most pleased is the way he's practicing much better than he did in the spring. I do think he's on schedule.”
If Miller can continue to progress as the Buckeyes enter conference play in two weeks, there’s no reason he can’t continue to put up monster numbers in Meyer’s offense. Especially when the Buckeyes have a healthy Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde out there to draw some of the attention away from the quarterback.
His biggest test of the season will likely come in two weeks, when the Buckeyes travel to East Lansing for their Big Ten-opener against Michigan State and former OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio.
Miller had the worst game of his career against the Spartans early last season, so this will be a big measuring stick of how far he has come in just one year’s time. If he can put up good numbers in that game, the rest of the Big Ten looks to be ripe for the picking.
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