Most Important Buckeyes: No. 1
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Raise your hand if you are surprised Braxton Miller is No. 1 on our list of Most Important Buckeyes for the 2012 season. Good. Now that we got the surprise out of the way, let’s take a look at what made the sophomore quarterback so important to this team.
Photo by Dan Harker
Any time a team goes undefeated, there are going to be many parts that contribute to the success. This past season’s Ohio State Buckeyes team was no different, as everyone on our list was essential. There just happens to be something about this kid from Huber Heights Wayne.
In the final regular season game of the dreadful 2011 season, we finally got to see what Miller could do when given the opportunity. He completed 56 percent of his passes and threw for a then career-high 235 yards and two touchdowns in a game that often defines players on both sides of the rivalry. He also rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown in Ann Arbor and despite the loss, his talent became apparent to us all.
It was widely reported when Ohio State named Urban Meyer to be their head football coach how excited he was to coach Miller. He went as far as calling number five “the most dynamic player” he’s ever coached. This from the man who oversaw the development of Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Josh Harris, Alex Smith and many others.
What Made Him Important?
Photo by Jim Davidson
The sophomore’s numbers speak for themselves. He threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, while completing over 58 percent of his attempts. He also was the team’s leading rusher with 1,271 yards accompanied by 13 touchdowns on the ground.
Heisman Trophy talk surrounded Miller for most of the season. He continued to propel Ohio State to wins, ending up fifth for the award. He is already a leading candidate heading into the 2013 campaign.
What made Braxton the most important player goes beyond the numbers. During multiple games this season the young quarterback took a hit that caused him to miss a play or two. During the Purdue game he missed the entire fourth quarter and there was a significant worry he would miss more time.
Despite an increased role of Carlos Hyde as the year progressed, Miller was Ohio State’s offensive catalyst. The opposition had to account for him on every play, whether he was running the read option, carrying the ball on a designed play, or dropping back to pass. His ability to run made him feared and thus a dangerous weapon for Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
When the Buckeyes put up big numbers offensively, it was because Miller had a big game. If he was out in the open field, making tacklers miss with his quick moves and picking up yards on the ground, his passing game opened up. When the opposition was able to slow him down, Ohio State struggled offensively.
In the late-season game against Wisconsin – when the Scarlet and Grey amassed only 236 yards of offense and scored 21 points in an overtime win – Miller struggled to ever get going. The Badgers held him to just 48 yards rushing, his second fewest of the season and only 97 yards through the air. The only team to do better was Purdue when Miller left the game in the third quarter due to injury.
Throughout the season, everyone knew Miller was the man to stop, yet few were able to do as much. The offense lived and died with the quarterback and for the most part it lived.
What Would The Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?
Photo by Dan Harker
The answer to this question was partially revealed in the Purdue game when Miller took the nasty hit – which left him lying on the turf for several minutes and eventually required him to be taken to the hospital.
In came backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, with an undefeated season on the line. The junior, who until then had taken minimal in-game snaps, was able to throw for a touchdown with three seconds remaining and complete a pass for a game-tying two-point conversion to force overtime before leading his team down the field to setup a game-winning run by Hyde.
While Guiton was the hero on the day, no one will argue that this team would have been anywhere near 12-0 without Braxton Miller. As the backup to Miller, Guiton would have been the starter if Braxton was not around. With nowhere near the athletic ability as Miller, Kenny G would have relied on his arm much more and a receiving corps that was not always stellar.
A 12-0 season likely would not have been possible without Miller, but that may have not have been the worst part of not having him. The college football world would have missed out on so many exciting plays that only one of the most electrifying players in the country could provide. Miller was unquestionably among them in 2012.
His leadership and command of the offense would also have been missed. The transformation from a quiet freshman to a player barking out calls, not afraid to tell players where they should be, was a huge step for this team this season and moving forward.
How Does It Compare To Our Preseason Expectations?
Photo by Jim Davidson
Despite very high expectations, Miller lived up to almost all of them. Meyer’s offense has always been predicated on a talented quarterback and his excitement about Braxton set the bar high. In fact, the only expectation he may not have met was being at the Heisman presentation, though he did lack a Tuiasopo-fueled story.
He was the focal point of the offense throughout the season and carried this team to wins at times. While his teammates – specifically Hyde – really stepped up as the year went on to give this offense multiple options, Miller never stopped being THE guy for Herman’s scheme.
In The-Ozone preseason expectations, Miller was listed at No. 1 on our countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes heading into 2012. There was never a moment this season when it seemed he would drop from that spot.
While there are still things the young quarterback will need to improve going into next year –
specifically his passing – he has made great strides already. There is no reason to expect he will not continue on his current development and be ready for another highlight-filled season in 2013.
It is scary to think where the possibilities lie for Braxton Miller…
Most Important Buckeyes Countdown:
No. 2 John Simon
No. 3 Zach Boren
No. 4 Ryan Shazier
No. 5 Carlos Hyde
No. 6 Johnathan Hankins
No. 7 Bradley Roby
No. 8 Reid Fragel
No. 9 Philly Brown
No. 10 Jack Mewhort
No. 11 Devin Smith
No. 12 Corey Linsley
No. 13 Nathan Williams
No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton