Braxton Miller Taking ‘Next Step’ This Offseason
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tom Herman watched closely as Braxton Miller went into his windup. His feet were right. His head was up. Eyes downfield.
The junior quarterback, fresh off a 12-0 season as a sophomore in 2012, was doing everything his second-year quarterbacks coach had taught him.
He stepped into the throw and delivered a perfect pass into the outstretched arms of a ready receiver. Everything was right, except the setting. Miller’s pass ended up in the hands of an passionate Ohio State fan, who greedily snatched the free t-shirt out of mid air.
Braxton Miller hoists the Silver Football trophy
Photo by Jim Davidson
It was all part of a celebration Thursday night for Miller. He received The Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football award during the first half of Ohio State’s win over Northwestern at Value City Arena.
The trophy was his reward for being named Player of the Year in the Big Ten by the head football coaches, but Miller would like to be holding a different trophy at the end of next season.
“I'm just thankful for all the things I can do out there and receive awards like this,” Miller said with a humble demeanor that has come to follow him during his first two years at Ohio State.
“It’s nice and it is a blessing, but we have bigger things in mind.”
Miller put together one of the better seasons in college football a year ago. He threw for over 2,000 yards, ran for over 1,200 and set an Ohio State school record for total offense in his first season under new head coach Urban Meyer.
The Huber Heights product finished fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, but there are lot of things he must improve heading into 2013 if he wants an invite to New York the next time around.
“Just consistency in his footwork. When he's good, he's really good, and when he's bad, he's bad,” Herman said.
“We need him to be really good more often. His good is really, really stinkin' good and he just needs to continue working on the consistency of it, because he's capable of that.”
Miller’s completion percentage jumped from 54 percent as a freshman to 58 percent as a sophomore. He also improved his quarterback rating to over 140 under Meyer and Herman’s tutelage this past year.
Tom Herman congratulates Braxton Miller during the presentation of the Silver Football award.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That was good for second-highest in the Big Ten behind Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez, but it was a long way from being on the same level as guys like A.J. McCarron (175), Aaron Murray (174), Tajh Boyd (166), Geno Smith (165), Teddy Bridgewater (160) and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel (155).
“I had bad mechanics last year,” Miller said Thursday night.
“I want to focus on it this year. You gotta keep your composure and just keep your mind on your mechanics and it gets you through it. I'm just getting comfortable right now.”
Miller came a long way after he started working with Herman, who was hired last December to serve as Meyer’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The only problem is, they haven’t spent much time together outside of the season.
Last December, as the Buckeyes were preparing to face Florida in the 2012 Gator Bowl, Herman was finishing out his tenure as the offensive coordinator at Iowa State. That means they missed out on 15 valuable bowl practices last year, and of course Ohio State had a postseason ban that cost the duo 15 more opportunities to work on mechanics this year.
“You gotta go get ‘em; somehow, some way,” Herman said of his message to Miller after the season ended back in November.
“We can’t be hands on at all, so this is where you take the next step as a leader and make sure somehow, some way you guys are throwing and doing drills and all that stuff to make up for those 15 practices.”
With that in mind, Miller decided to make a trip out to San Diego back in December. He went to work with mechanics coach George Whitfield –nicknamed the “quarterback whisperer” – at his specialized quarterback training academy Whitfield Athletix.
“He asked if I knew him and I knew of George,” said Herman, who made it clear Ohio State did not, and could not, initiate something like this during the offseason.
“I certainly didn’t mind, without the bowl game and the practices, for him to take it upon himself to go out to California and try to hone his craft. I was fired up about it.”
According to Herman, Miller likely got the idea from the time he spent with Manziel at some of the award ceremonies back in December. The Texas A&M quarterback is just the latest in a long line of highly successful signal-callers who have worked with Whitfield to perfect their craft.
That list includes Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, along with Pittsburgh All-Pro Ben Roethlisberger, Donovan McNabb and Philip Rivers. It also includes college quarterbacks like Tajh Boyd, Landry Jones and E.J. Manuel, along with No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck.
If there is a football in the room, Herman can’t even be within viewing distance of his quarterback until the Buckeyes open spring practice next month. A year ago he would have been extremely nervous about Miller’s ability to lead the offense during the offseason without the coaches around, but not anymore.
“From the reports I get, it’s like what a very well-coached and well-run offense should be doing in the offseason,” Herman said with a smile.
“That means having the quarterback out there throwing the football around with all the skill guys and the O-linemen doing drills. From what I understand, all of that is getting done.”