Miller Likes OSU New High-Powered Arsenal
By Patrick Murphy
When Braxton Miller looks across the practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex this spring, he will observe something new.
“There's a whole bunch of weapons that I can talk about right now,” Miller recently said.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The talent level at the skill positions has not exactly been this high in Miller’s three seasons as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, but times are changing at OSU.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Miller responded when asked if this year is the most talented group of players at his disposal.
“I haven't had weapons like that since high school. It's going to be fun throwing the ball around and making it easy for me.”
Miller’s job this season is to distribute the ball to these weapons and allow them to make the plays.
Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott electrified fans in limited action in 2013, but the sophomores must contribute more this season. Wilson dazzled fans with his speed, but head coach Urban Meyer stated he needed to become a more complete player. Wilson has added muscle in order to break more tackles and be a more reliable blocker on the outside.
Elliott is the favorite to take over for Carlos Hyde in the OSU backfield due to the versatility he provides at running back. The St. Louis native will be relied upon to carry the workload running the ball and give Miller an explosive outlet that will be hard to defend.
Add to that tandem more electricity in Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, and Michael Thomas and Miller has to have visions of sparks flying when the OSU offense is on the field..
Marshall, a high school quarterback, is similar to Wilson and Elliott. After a forced redshirt year due to injury, the second-year player began to show the Ohio State coaching staff what they expected of him when they recruited the elite athlete.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He showed flashes by the end of this past fall,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. “We said, 'Okay, we've got to get him going in the spring, and then next fall he'll contribute.'”
Smith and Thomas both redshirted last season, but continued to prepare each week in case they were needed.
“Corey and Mike were guys that redshirted, but I prepared them every week to play,” Smith said. “Because we redshirted so many players this past year, there wasn't an opportunity to just redshirt them and let them have a year to develop.
All of these players have great athletic ability but the ones that show they can be great receivers, not just athletes will see the field.
“The strides they made this past fall, I was very pleased.," said Smith.
"They made phenomenal strides. They've got to continue it in the spring so that they can really get in the mix.”
It is not just returning players that Miller is excited for, but incoming freshmen as well. The good news for Ohio State’s offense is that two of these players – Johnnie Dixon and Curtis Samuel – are already on campus.
“Johnnie, for sure,” Miller said when asked about the freshmen before spring practice. “I haven't seen him out there on the field yet, but I see him in the workouts. He works hard… He's there on time.
“He's one of those freshmen that I feel like he's going to do outstanding things his first three years and then maybe make that decision at the end. It's going to be tough for him. He's just got to improve and work on the little things and he'll be fine.”
Dixon has a long way to go before making any decisions on the NFL, but that is high praise to receive early on.
Dixon isn’t the only new player Miller wanted to discuss.
"I see the quickness that he has and the strength,” he said of Samuel.
Strength will be important for Samuel, as he will work with the running backs. He provides another diverse option behind Elliott and the other backs.
The early reports from spring practice are that these players are as talented as advertised. They join some of Miller’s other targets that have already made their mark to give him a plethora of options.
“It's going to be fun with Zeke, Rod [Smith] and Devin [Smith], Mike [Thomas], Corey, the new guys coming in. It's gonna be fun, man.” Miller said.
Though Miller will sit out spring practice after recovering from minor shoulder surgery, he will be able to watch these players in action and anticipate what it will be like come fall.
There will also be the additions of Terry McLaurin, Paris Campbell, and Noah Brown to the mix in the fall.
Miller may have dreamed of these options, but never before has he had the chance to work with so much talent.