Braxton Miller Getting Closer to Reaching His Potential
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Heading into the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes’ season, everyone was excited to see how successful quarterback Braxton Miller would be in the new spread offense that head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman had brought to Columbus. Meyer himself was unable to contain his excitement at the prospect of working with Miller at his introductory press conference.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Miller’s numbers increased as expected from his freshman year. With the use of the zone read, the numbers that increased most were Miller’s rushing stats. The former Huber Heights Wayne product came close to doubling all of his numbers on the ground from the previous season, both through designed run plays and his ability to scramble.
Buckeye fans were consistently awed by their quarterback’s ability to make the opposition miss, both in the backfield and when he got out in the open. Once he beat the defender there were few that could catch Miller, who has been recorded as the second-fastest player on the Buckeye roster with a 4.32 40-yard dash time.
Despite the highlight reel that Miller can produce with his legs, Herman is hoping that his signal caller will not resort to that method as often in 2013.
“There’s got to be a calculated reason for escaping the pocket,” Herman said.
“There’s times when you still see him – and they’re less today than they’ve ever been – what is he doing? There was nothing, what was he freaking out for back there?”
At points last season, Miller left the pocket before it was necessary. That sometimes it resulted in a sack or shorter gain than may have been available if he had been more patient.
Defenses late in the year began to pick up on Miller’s rushing tendencies and it showed in his statistics.
In the last three games of the season, Miller carried the ball a combined 61 times for a total of 178 yards. That amounts to just 2.91 yards per carry for a player who averaged 5.6 for the season. To be successful, there must be a time and place for Miller to run.
“When something breaks down or the mental clock starts to tick and he takes off, that’s great,” Herman said.
“There’s a reason. Something broke down, something happened to make you do that, but don’t let it be your own fault that you got nervous and got happy feet and decided to start running around.”
“He’s starting to break that habit,” Herman said after Spring Practice.
“We still have a long way to go there, but he’s best when he’s confident he knows where guys are going to be.”
This confidence comes from continuously working with the players around him and continuing to build trust that everyone will be where they are supposed to be. This does not only apply to his receivers running the right routes, but also his linemen. Miller must believe that the front five will hold the protection until he can get rid of the ball. When that happens, he then won't have to worry about scrambling until it is his last resort.
This also applies to Miller’s understanding of what the opponent is doing defensively. As he continues to study and learn what defenses will throw at him, he will begin to trust his arm more to make the plays.
Just as all young quarterbacks who rely on their legs more early in their career, Miller’s improvement throwing the ball as a junior will be paramount to his and the Buckeyes’ success.
There have been flashes of Miller’s ability in the passing game, but it has not yet all come together. In 2012, Miller threw over one-and-a-half times more than in 2011, and completed almost two times the number of passes. His completion percentage was up to 58% from 54%, and he had almost twice the yardage through the air.
Yet he and his quarterbacks coach believe there is still much more to come if he continues to work hard.
“I feel good, not great,” Herman said of where Miller is passing the ball right now.
“I think we made tremendous strides. If Braxton was a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 when we got here, he finished the season around a four. By the end of spring ball he was around a six, but the cool thing with him is he could be about a 12.”
This potential is what had Meyer so excited when he took over at Ohio State. Miller has been good so far, but can be something special if he wants to be.
This offseason, he took a step by going to San Diego and working with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. on chaos mechanics. Throughout the spring Miller looked as if the work had helped him some, yet it is the initiative to use his free time to hone his craft that speaks to the quarterback’s desire to get better.
“I've just got to keep on working on the little fundamental things, and everything else will fall into place,” Miller said this spring.
“If you keep working on the little things, you'll keep getting better at them. That's what we keep doing every time I come out on the field.”
While Miller may not have reached the ceiling for his potential yet, it is not because he is not working hard to get there. Perhaps it is because the ceiling is just so high. Needless to say, as he continues to climb, his talent ladder he will continue to amaze the Buckeye faithful and likely lead his team to more wins.