COLUMBUS, Ohio — Flight simulators have been around almost as long as airplanes themselves. They have trained pilots for over a century, preparing them for flight without ever actually leaving the ground.
Miller Won't Be Taking Snaps, But Won't Be Taking It Easy Either
By Tony Gerdeman
Ohio State will be attempting something similar with the pilot of their offense, as quarterback Braxton Miller recovers from right shoulder surgery following an injury in January's Orange Bowl loss to Clemson.
Unable to throw, Miller has been outfitted with a camera and microphone and will be processing snaps and reads throughout the spring, taking mental reps while recovering physically. It's not ideal, but according to Urban Meyer, it could just be exactly what Miller has been missing.
"They've got a contraption set up where he actually calls the play and he also tells us what he sees in the secondary," Meyer explained.
"The issue if you remember a year ago was fundamentals, with footwork and balance and his ball positioning. His issues now this year are verbal communication and keeping the eyes on the secondary, so every play we're having him say what he sees in the secondary, so it's going to be a productive spring. He's into it right now."
The "contraption", as Meyer calls it, looks essentially like a baseball cap with a camera affixed to the bill. The camera allows the coaches to see what he sees, though it doesn't necessarily allow them to see where his eyes are looking, rather only where his head is pointed.
Quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman will then go over the tapes to make sure Miller is seeing and saying what he wants to see and hear.
"One of the things that we want him to do -- he knows football, he's actually really football smart -- it's the speaking the language thing that we're working on with him," Herman said.
"When a GM or a scout or an offensive coordinator comes in this time next year and puts him on the board, all of that football knowledge can come out. So the more he can talk and articulate that, the better."
The reason for surgery this close to the spring was because of the hope that the rehab would work and would then make surgery unnecessary. That obviously didn't happen.
"We knew he got dinged in the bowl game," Meyer said.
"They wanted to rehab it four weeks. If at all possible you don't want to have surgery on a player if you can rehab him through it. It wasn't making the progress so they made the decision to fix it."
So while Miller recovers from being fixed, he will continue to work on his game. If all goes as planned, the only thing Miller will miss this spring will be the actual physical reps. Quarterback Kenny Guiton showed everybody the value of mental repetitions a season ago, and now Miller will attempt to do the same.
Miller will still have to put in plenty of work in the spring and summer to make up for his lost time. The drills this spring are intended to shore up one particular area of his game, but he will still have to continue working at the others. If he doesn't, then the work right now will be meaningless.
"If he doesn't have a good summer it will cost him a lot," Meyer said.
"He'll be a very average player. I think he understands his weaknesses, his verbal skills and keeping his eyes on the secondary. The good thing is you can do that without -- it's obviously better if you throw, but you saw him use every snap, watch things, he was engaged. He's got a lot riding on this now. If he doesn't fix this it's a different spot than he wants to be in."
For Meyer to be talking about fixing a player who is a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year tells you how much better his coaches think he can get. The fact that Miller returned for his senior season also tells you how much better he himself plans on becoming.
With the focus on Miller's eyes and voice, and a lack of concern for non-existent pass rushers, the hope is that his own focus grows and continues to incorporate more of the defense than just those who are trying to do him immediate harm.
For quarterbacks, that's always job number one.
"That's why there's a lot of average quarterbacks out there," Meyer explained.
"You've got to be a tough nut to stand back there and have a pass rush coming on you and still keep your eyes downfield. You don't find too many quarterbacks who can do that."
The hope for Meyer and Herman is that this particular simulator will turn Miller into the type of pilot they've been wanting, and all without ever actually leaving the ground.
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