Miller a Different Player Since Last Visit to Ann Arbor
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio - On November 26, 2011, freshman Braxton Miller appeared in his first Ohio State-Michigan game.
Heading into the game, Miller was 71/132 passing on the year for 924 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had rushed for 615 yards and six touchdowns. Miller was perceived as an athlete playing quarterback.
In The Game, Miller showed his potential that had laid dormant for most of the season. Though the Buckeyes lost, Miller completed 14 of his 25 pass attempts for 235 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 100 yards and added another score, seemingly in command of the offense.
Braxton Miller vs. the Wolverines in 2011
Photo by Jim Davidson
On November 30, 2013, Miller returns to Ann Arbor a quarterback who is also an athlete.
“Braxton Miller is a different quarterback than he was,” Urban Meyer said.
That statistics back Meyer’s claim. This season, Miller has thrown for 1,626 yard and 19 touchdowns, while still rushing for 738 yards and five scores on 43 less carries than two years ago. Miller still has his rushing ability, but has learned when to run to be more effective.
He has also developed into a better passer, leading the Big Ten in pass efficiency and tied for second in touchdowns.
“I wasn't here, but I can only imagine his freshman year,” Meyer said. “Braxton is a guy that if he's not comfortable, he's not going to act like he's having fun when it's not fun.
“People make the comment about he's having fun, and he's having fun because he knows what he's doing.”
Miller may be having fun now, throwing at least two touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ last five games, but he wasn’t having as much fun earlier in the season.
After a mediocre first game, Miller was injured in game two and missed the next three. He returned with a four-touchdown performance against Wisconsin, but struggled at Northwestern the following week.
Miller lays on the turf after sustaining a knee injury in the San Diego State game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
After that game, Miller endured criticism and fans began calling for backup Kenny Gution who was very good in Miller’s absence.
Miller has quieted the critics as he has gotten past his knee injury and regained comfort with his offense. He's also continued to progress.
“He knows where people are,” Meyer said. “He knows the protections. He's playing quarterback.”
Since the Northwestern game – where he turned the ball over three times and had accounted for no scores – Miller has completed almost 70% of his passes for 1,017 yards and 16 total touchdowns.
“Everyone has bad games,” Michael Bennett said. “He might have struggled in the Northwestern game, but now he’s got confidence. Not only in himself but he knows his O-line will do their job.”
Confidence in his teammates is big, but Miller’s confidence in himself is essential for a quarterback.
“As a player, when you're playing really well, you have a lot of confidence,” offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. “He made some great players as a quarterback on Saturday that gave us all a lot of confidence in him.”
If the offense has confidence in all its parts it begins to hit on all cylinders. Ohio State’s offense has done that, averaging 530.9 yards and 48.7 points per game – both top ten nationally and Miller is a big reason for that.
Meyer said that Miller played one of his best games as a quarterback last week, including one play that stood out.
“His best play at college football quarterback was 3rd and 17 on the right hash in snowy conditions where he completed a bender to Jeff Heuerman with pressure bearing down on him,” Meyer said.
“He didn't panic out of the pocket. He stepped, delivered the ball, and that might be worth going back and watching it, fantastic play.”
In the past, Miller would have tried to make a play with his leg in that situation. This time, he hung in the pocket and made the throw, and that's what a quarterback does, and a pure athlete does not.
His development from an athlete to a quarterback should be apparent on Saturday in the Big House. His comfort in the offense and the work he has put in helped him in his evolution and Meyer believes it will help him in the future.
“He has a skillset to be a pro quarterback, there is no doubt in my mind,” Meyer said,
“I don't believe he's ready yet, but I certainly get asked that question, can Braxton Miller play NFL quarterback? Absolutely, he can.