Miller Shows Off Arm During Ohio State’s Spring Game
By Brandon Castel
CINCINNATI, Ohio — It was little more than a glorified practice, but more than 37,000 showed up at Paul Brown Stadium to watch Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes on Saturday.
They flocked to the banks of the Ohio River to see for themselves what Meyer’s offense might look like in year two at Ohio State. They were hoping to find out whether young guys like Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington were ready to fill the big shoes left behind by John Simon and Johnathan Hankins.
Maybe more importantly, they wanted to know whether Braxton Miller would be the one to lead the program back to the promised land.
It was only a practice, the 15th and final of the spring for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes showed a little bit of everything in their voyage south to Cincinnati at Saturday. Washington and Spence combined for seven sacks against the first-team offense – minus Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley – but Miller and the Scarlet offense also put 31 points on the board.
Miller accounted for three of his team’s four touchdowns, including a 20-yard pass to Devin Smith and a five-yard scramble where he danced around in the pocket before slipping out into the left flat.
Because he was in a black jersey, all the defense had to do was get a pair of hands on Miller before he crossed the goal line, but Ohio State’s shifty quarterback danced his way into the end zone untouched for the score.
“I already expected that from Braxton because he’s an electrifying player. I knew he was going to go out there and make plays, and he did,” senior safety Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown said after the spring game.
“We all know what he could do without (the black jersey), if it was a real game situation, so he’s just trying to work on his skills and his fundamentals.”
After finishing second in the Big Ten in rushing last season, Meyer said he wanted to see his offense work on improving the passing game in this year’s Scarlet and Gray spring game.
“We're spending a lot of time talking about a part of our game,” Meyer said Saturday.
“If we can figure that out, I would be disappointed if we're not the best offense in the Big Ten.”
A lot of that will fall on the offense line, which did not look great on Saturday against Spence, Washington and Luke Fickell’s defensive front line. Center Corey Linsley missed the game because of a foot injury and left tackle Jack Mewhort was held back so Meyer could get a better look at Taylor Decker and Chase Farris, the two players competing for the starting right tackle spot this spring.
“I feel good about four of the five starters and unless we get that fixed there goes the best offense in the Big Ten because you can't play with four linemen,” Meyer said with his usual candor.
“So one of those young players have to step up and they haven't this spring.”
Despite the fact he was under constant pressure from Spence and Washington on the edge, Miller threw for a game-high 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns (in 10 minute quarters). He completed 16 of his 25 passes, including the very first one of the game on a 49-yard catch by Evan Spencer.
“I just know how the plays develop and where the players are going to be,” said Miller said, who was sacked seven times by the Gray defense.
“I just move around the pocket knowing where the guys are going to be.”
Miller did a great job of finding his favorite receivers on Saturday. Devin Smith and Corey “Philly” Brown both had five catches apiece, but Ohio State’s junior passer also showed an ability to go through his progressions.
He made a number of check-downs to tailback Bri’onte Dunn, who caught five passes for 61 yards against the first-team defense.
“He’s a totally different person,” Philly Brown said afterward.
“Just him knowing the game. He’s such a smart football player now. It’s night and day from where it was last year.”
With pressure in his face, Miller scrambled out of the pocket on his first touchdown pass. He motioned for Devin Smith to run towards the back corner and Miller threw him open behind cornerback Armani Reeves.
He also threw a perfect strike to Philly Brown in the opposite end zone for a three-yard touchdown to give Scarlet a 14-7 lead at the end of the first half.
“Just placing the ball where it needed to be placed,” Miller said of the pass he threaded past cornerback Doran Grant.
“Hitting receivers in stride and making back-shoulder throws. It's hard to defend.”
Miller’s most dangerous weapon was not even on display Saturday. Because of the black jersey, he was limited to using his arm as his best weapon during Ohio State’s spring game, but he was still able to make a few plays with his legs.
He even caught a pass on a trick play from running back Levi Ratliff, a converted quarterback.
“That’s him just being him, running around,” Philly Brown said.
“Obviously he’s not trying to run, because he would have probably scored on a couple of those. Him just running around and trying to make somebody miss, with coach holding the whistle. It really helped us out today.”
Backup Kenny Guiton started out with the Gray team but eventually switched over to Scarlet so redshirt freshman Cardale Jones could get some reps in the spring game. Guiton finished with 151 yards on 13-of-22 passing.
He threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Chris Fields in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first half. He also had a couple nice runs, including a 13-yard scamper on an option keeper.
But this was mostly about Braxton Miller, who showed glimpses of being the type of passer Urban Meyer and his staff are looking for out of the junior in 2013.
“Fundamentally he's pretty good but when it breaks down, that's when it starts to build, and I thought today it was pretty good,” Meyer said.
“He had a couple of situations where it didn't look very good and he went back to the old days. The old days was to take off the ball running instead of keeping your eyes down field, but he's much improved.”
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