Meyer Demanding More from Braxton, Herman Next Season
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was remarkable to watch Braxton Miller’s transformation over the last year.
The young quarterback blossomed, seemingly over night, from a timid freshman who often looked uncertain and ill-prepared to handle the pressure of the spotlight into a Heisman Trophy candidate in just one short year.
Miller didn’t actually get an invite to New York, where the Heisman Trophy will likely end up in the hands of ‘Johnny Football,’ the young quarterback at Texas A&M. The redshirt freshman passed for 3,400 yards and ran for over 1,100, while racking up 43 touchdowns in his first season of collegiate football.
Urban Meyer counsils Braxton Miller during the Illinois game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
His defining moment came in week 11, when Manziel threw for over 250 yards and ran for 92 more in a 29-24 upset of No. 1-ranked Alabama, and it just so happened to be on the road in Tuscaloosa.
The rookie completed over 68 percent of his passes this season and threw only eight interceptions in his debut at quarterback, but Ohio State coach Urban Meyer sees a similar future for his own young quarterback … if he can learn to harness his abilities as a passer.
“His accuracy and passing has a long way to go, but it has improved,” Meyer said in the days following Ohio State’s 26-21 win over Michigan.
“His comfort in the pocket has a long way to go, but it has improve. I still have no idea where … you can’t see the ceiling. Pocket awareness and comfort throwing the ball, I don’t see the ceiling yet.”
Miller doesn’t throw a lot of picks. He had four as a freshman in 157 attempts and six as a sophomore in nearly 100 more attempts. He threw for over 100 yards in all but one game this season, and topped the 200-yard mark on four occasions, but most of his damage was done with his legs.
The dynamic sophomore of Wayne High School in Huber Heights was a blur on the ground this season, but he wasn’t very effective in situations where he was expected to pull the ball and run because nothing was open down field.
“As athletic as he is, he’s not a great scrambler,” said Meyer, who called former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young the best he’s ever seen.
“I’m going to do a study, I don’t think he had any yards this year scrambling. It was all runs. That’s something we’re going to work on. When it’s open, take it. That is a concern, that’s something we’ll address.”
Miller still managed to rack up a school quarterback record 1,271 yards on the ground this season. He had six 100-yard rushing games, including an OSU quarterback record 186 yards against Nebraska, but it appeared as though defenses started to figure him out towards the end of the year.
After rushing for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns at Penn State, Miller averaged just 59 rushing yards per game in the month of November. He had 48 yards on 23 carries in the overtime win at Wisconsin, and was held to just 57 yards on 20 carries against the Wolverines.
“When it’s an open field and I’m rolling out, I’m still looking for somebody down field to get open,” Miller said.
“But the whole space is wide open. I’m looking to throw the ball before I’m running.”
It’s that throwing game where Miller has not even scratched the surface of what Urban Meyer is hoping his young quarterback can become before his Ohio State career comes to end.
“If he becomes fundamentally the best quarterback in America, I think he will be the best quarterback in America,” Meyer said.
“I think it’s comical what he will do, but he’s not there yet.”
Meyer has raved about Miller’s arm strength and his quick release since he took the head coaching job at Ohio State more than a year ago. He knew he was inheriting a tremendous athlete that was trying to be a quarterback, which is why Meyer hired a talented, young offensive coordinator to mentor his new signal caller.
“That’s our job. That’s Tom Herman’s job,” Meyer said.
“Our quarterback was not the best fundamental quarterback in America, so Tom Herman and I are going to have a chat. That’s his job to explain to my why it didn’t happen. This is big boy football and that’s your job.”
That doesn’t mean Meyer was dissatisfied with the job Herman did in his first year as offensive coordinator. Quite the contrary.
“He did great work in other areas,” he said, referencing Ohio State’s downhill rushing attack as being one of the best in the country this season.
“Tom Herman did a fabulous job, but Tom Herman and Braxton Miller understand they have to get better.”
And of course, Meyer will be the one there demanding perfection from both his quarterback and his coordinator as the Buckeyes look to develop a much more balanced offensive attack for Meyer’s second season at the helm.
“It’s my job as the head guy to find out why that hasn’t happened,” Meyer added.
“Have we not worked on that enough? Is there resistance? Is there pushback? Is there knowledge problems? Why is he not? At times he was, but he wasn’t that consistent. I’m going to make sure there’s that chip on Tom Herman and also Braxton.”
Because, ultimately, it’s going to come down to No. 5 being ready to pull the trigger.
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