March 29, 2013

Miller growing as a passer, leader

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Urban Meyer looks back at Braxton Miller's career, he'll have one regret- even if it's something that he didn't have any control over.

"I just wish he didn't have to play that first year," the second-year Ohio State head coach said of Miller's freshman season in 2011. "He wasn't ready to play."

Miller's first playing time in Columbus, however, came a full year before Meyer coached his first game as the Buckeyes' head coach. With the Ohio State program in flux due to NCAA violations committed by members of the 2010 team and former head coach Jim Tressel, then-interim head coach Luke Fickell turned to Miller- a true freshman- to help quarterback the Buckeyes to a 6-7 record.

Yet despite his apparent unpreparedness two seasons ago, the Huber Heights, Ohio native still managed to throw for 1,159 yards and run for 715 more, amassing 20 total touchdowns in his freshman campaign.

"He still was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year," Meyer said. "That just tells you how talented he was."

That talent made its natural progression in Miller's sophomore season, where he broke Ohio State's single season total offense record with 3,310 yards, while leading the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record. Yet despite witnessing his quarterback win last year's Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award, Meyer still isn't completely satisfied with where Miller is as a passer.

"His quarterback development is behind a little bit," Meyer admitted. "As a player, it's not."

For Miller's part, the junior-to-be is doing everything in his power to get to where his head coach wants him to be. The third-year starter spent his winter break in San Diego, Calif., working out with noted quarterback guru George Whitfield, Jr.

It was there that Miller worked on skills such as back-shoulder passes and throwing receivers open, which are talents that he's trying to showcase throughout Ohio State's ongoing spring practice sessions.

"I just gotta keep working on the little things and keep getting better at them," Miller said. "Last year, I was kind of second-guessing myself because I wasn't playing as well, this year I'm going to be much better at the plays and throwing guys open."

Asked to rank Miller as a quarterback on a scale of 1-10, Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said that a year ago he was a 1, at the end of last season he was a 4, and right now he's a 6.

"He can be an 11," Herman said. "He can run real fast and throw real hard. Those are things that are really hard to coach, last time I checked. Those are really, really good things to have."

Whether Miller can develop his raw skills into a sustainable style of play that will appease his coaches remains to be seen, but that's not the only thing that he's trying to develop this spring.

Now a third-year player and the face of the Ohio State program, Miller knows that it's on him to show that he can be more of a leader for the Buckeyes this spring. That, of course, is sometimes easier said than done for a quiet kid who often times tries to answer questions from the media in as few words as possible.

"When I first got here it was (more difficult) because nobody really taught me how to be a leader like I should be," Miller said. "Every time in the building, I try to bring leadership to everybody."

If Miller can mesh some of his physical development with his mental growth, the next natural step on the ladder of accolades that he's earning could be a Heisman Trophy. But even with last year's winner, Johnny Manziel, back at Texas A&M for another year, Miller doesn't seem too concerned with where he's viewed among college football's elite.

"I don't think about it. I'm just working on the things I need to work on for my team," Miller said. "You never know what's going to happen at the end."


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