Sideline time good for Miller

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Last updated: 04/10/2014 3:58 PM
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Football
Sideline Time Good Time for Miller

By Patrick Murphy

On the first drive of Ohio State’s second game of 2013, quarterback Braxton Miller went down with a knee injury. Just over a game later, backup Kenny Guiton had dazzled his way into a mini quarterback controversy.

What did Guiton have that Miller lacked? Arm strength? No. Speed? Not a chance. Experience? Obviously not.

Guiton’s one advantage was experience on the sideline. The sideline you ask? Why would that make a quarterback better? Because Guiton watched and learned.

Miller has developed tremendously in three years as the Buckeyes' starting signal caller, but he has spent little time sitting and watching. His most important lessons may ultimately come while unable to play.

“In my opinion, Braxton has always been very football smart. You can't do the things that you do on the football field without kind of understanding what's going on,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman assessed. “I think speaking the language like a coach is very, very foreign to him, so we're trying to develop that as much as possible.”

Braxton Miller on the sideline at OSU spring practice.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

Speaking like a coach was something Guiton became familiar with while holding a clipboard for three years. He was able to understand the game, not just play it with athletic ability.

“You can ask him questions and a lot of times you'll get the 'I don't know why I do, I just do' kind of answer,” Herman said of Miller. “The first step is knowing, so at least we conquered that part.”

Miller is a unique athlete and has thrived off his gifts, but those gifts may have also hindered his development because he has never sat and learned. Sometimes a coach must slow a player down in order to better him.

Miller is unable to participate in spring practice, recovering from minor shoulder surgery, giving the coaches the time needed to make him learn.

“In my opinion the best way to learn is to teach,” said Herman, whose job is based on instructing young men.

“I've learned more about football from teaching it to young people than probably in any lecture or any older people telling me because it's just kind of a process. It's a trial and error. It's an immersion into the game that he might not [have] done had he been out there and been exhausted from practice. I think he's embraced the things that I can do, so let's turn a negative into a positive.”

Physical reps be damned! Meet Coach Miller.

“Tonight he's going to grade J.T. Barrett like a coach would,” Herman told the media a few weeks back.

“Watch the film on his iPad and grade the film, plus or minus on every play in 7-on-7 and every play in team, to keep him engaged.”

"Coach" Braxton Miller and J. T. Barrett on the OSU sideline.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller and J. T. Barrett

If he can learn the coaching side of the game to go along with his on-field play, it could also improve his stock at the next level. At least that’s how Herman sees it.

“Let's figure out how to communicate and speak the language like we do, to allow you the best opportunity when you go interview for a job in March, April or May of next year. Present yourself as best you can.”

If the NFL doesn’t work out, maybe Miller has found something on which to fall back. Coach Miller that is.

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