Meyer Hoping Braxton Miller Will Develop ‘Jordan Effect’
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has done everything he can. The rest is up to Braxton Miller.
Exactly what Ohio State’s quarterback, and in many ways its offense, will look like this fall – at least compared to now – will rest on the shoulders of the junior out of Wayne High School.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Much like he did over winter break, Miller will have to take it upon himself to improve his game over the summer before Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman can work with him again in the fall.
It will make for a long, sometimes agonizing, three months away from football, but Meyer and his staff have a newfound faith in their star signal-caller.
“He's taken quantum leaps as far as leadership abilities,” Meyer said Tuesday during his ESPN appearance with Rece Davis and Chris Spielman as part of College Football Live's Spring Bus Tour.
“His leadership skills were average. He's communicating well. He's encouraging. The ultimate judge of a leader – I always call it the ‘Michael Jordan effect.’
“Michael Jordan, I don't know him, but to think of the personnel he had around him to win those championships, he raised the level of play of everyone around him, and that's where Braxton has really improved this spring.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
According to Meyer, Miller was never ready to be thrown into the fire as a rookie two years ago. He would have been better served with a year to grow and learn from a veteran quarterback, but interim head coach Luke Fickell did not have that luxury at the time.
Even last year, Meyer believes Miller was relying almost entirely on his natural physical gifts as a splendid athlete playing the quarterback position.
“He came in, had a brand new system and got player of the year in the Big Ten conference,” Meyer said, “when in fact he was a guy that ran really fast and was a very talented player. But we weren't very good at the receiver and quarterback position, as far as just the fundamentals of throwing the ball.”
He completed 58 percent of his passes last year and set an Ohio State school record with over 1,200 yards on the ground from a quarterback. He also led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 season, but Miller knows he still had a long way to go.
“Just knowing the concepts and the playbook,” Miller said Tuesday of where he feels he has grown the most in the last year.
“Have a year under your belt with the plays, just keep watching film and working on mistakes from last year to fix them for this season.”
One of the biggest areas where Miller has focused his attention this offseason is footwork. According to Meyer, his mechanics start out well in the pocket, but they deteriorate quickly whenever the play breaks down.
Miller has a strong enough arm to play at the next level, and he has a lot of other tools NFL general managers will be salivating over in a couple years. Miller also knows he has to do a better job using those tools, especially when it comes to the vertical passing game.
“Where you want to go in the future, you have to put more time in,” he said Tuesday during his appearance on College Football Live.
“It’s a lot more film work and footwork on my own. Fundamental things like that. Just being calm with your feet, don’t get too rattled when somebody gets open.”
Another area Miller has to improve if he wants to make it through another 12-game season – with the possibility of two additional postseason games this year – is his self-preservation.
Ohio State’s quarterback never missed a game last year, but he did have some scary moments, including a hit to the head at Michigan State and a frightening moment against Purdue.
“If somebody has you by the ankles and you see a couple guys coming, you might want to get down in the gopher hole to protect yourself,” Miller said with a smirk on Tuesday.
“It’s in my mind, just slide a little bit. Protect yourself.”
That was something Miller didn’t have a chance to do earlier this spring when he took a hard shot from defensive end Noah Spence during a winner-loser day practice at Ohio State.
“When a quarterback wears a black jersey, you’re not allowed to tackle them,” Miller said to the instant ridicule of former OSU linebacker Chris Spielman.
“It was winner-loser day and he was going full speed and couldn’t let up. He got me in my ribs.”
Miller was actually down on the turf, lying on his back for a few minutes. When he finally got up, it was not to pat Spence on the back for a nice hit.
“I got up and I started going towards the defensive sideline,” he recalled.
“I wanted to say a couple words to him, but guys wouldn’t let me. It got too wild over there.”
Afterward, Coach Meyer said he was happy to see some fight out of his star quarterback, especially a kid who hasn’t always been the most vocal player on the team.
“It says he’s a competitor,” Miller added.
“When things go wrong, he’s still going to keep fighting for the extra yards. When things go right, he’s going to keep the mellow person he is.”
That last part comes easy to Miller. It’s being more vocal and more of a natural leader to everyone on the team – especially the guys in his offensive huddle – that continues to be a work in progress for the kid out of the Dayton area.
“You can’t praise the guys all the time,” He said, “you have to be able to tell them what they did wrong so they can correct it with film work.”
Now that spring ball is over, Miller will have a few months to work on that aspect of his game.
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