Meyer Anxious To See if Braxton Can Lead
By Brandon Castel
CHICAGO — Urban Meyer knew what kind of player he was getting with Braxton Miller when he first took the job back at Ohio State.
He had seen what the rest of the country has seen—a youthfully unpolished, yet powerfully explosive quarterback who, on the surface, would appear to fit Meyer’s system as well as anyone not named Tim Tebow.
Urban Meyer watches Braxton Miller roll out.
Photo by Dan Harker
“Braxton Miller is dynamic,” Meyer said at Big Ten media days in Chicago last week.
“He’s the most dynamic athlete I’ve ever coached. (He) has a lot of the skill set that even (Tebow) didn’t have.”
What Meyer said was intended to make people go, ‘Whoa!’ He has a tendency to do that, especially when he’s trying to make a point. In this case, however, Meyer’s point was exactly what it sounded liked.
“He is, by far,” Meyer added for emphasis.
“That’s how good an athlete he is.”
Miller’s athleticism is off the charts for a quarterback, and it’s a different type of athleticism than what guys like Troy Smith or Terrelle Pryor brought to the position. According to some of his teammates, Miller might be the fastest player on the entire roster.
It was one first things that popped into Meyer’s head when got off the phone with OSU athletic director Gene Smith back in November, before he had even hammered out the details of a contract that would bring him back to Columbus.
“His acceleration is off the charts,” Meyer said with excitement.
“I’ve had very few people that can accelerate like that, and I’ve had first-rounders all over the place. His acceleration from Point A to Point B, our strength coach and I laugh at it. And he’s strong. He’s 215 pounds. Real strong.”
Photo by Dan Harker
He will need every ounce of that strength and every step of that acceleration to run Meyer’s offense, which places as much or more emphasis on the quarterback position than any other system in the country.
“The one thing about our offense, you can’t have a bad quarterback,” Meyer said
“And the quarterback can’t have a bad day or you’ll lose.”
That tends to be true with almost any offense. While Meyer says quarterbacks typically get too much credit and too much blame, he also said there will be games where Miller will have to “make a read” on every snap.
That could be as many as 80 plays if the Buckeyes can play the kind of hurry-up offense Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman were working on in the spring.
“Some offenses turn around and hand the ball off, that doesn’t happen here,” Meyer said.
“We’ll do that a little bit this year; we’ve got some plays in. There are a lot of games where the quarterback has to make a read every play. I don’t think there is any other offense that does that. Usually there’s no read.”
Not only will Meyer’s offense put a lot on his young quarterback to make good decisions, but Miller has to stay healthy if the Buckeyes are going to have any measure of success in 2012.
Urban Meyer looks on as Kenny Guiton gets ready to throw.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That, or backup Kenny Guiton had better be ready to make the kind of plays Ohio State will need from its quarterback under the new system.
“It depends on who your backup is,” Meyer added.
“We’ve been fortunate to stay healthy, but I like Kenny Guiton. We’re going to be more aggressive because I have trust in two quarterbacks. The year we had Chris Leak and Tim Tebow, they fed off each other. They were different, but we’ll have a contingency plan.”
One thing Miller does have in common with Tebow is an unassuming nature that is rare in this day an age.
“He has a degree of humility that you almost never see in quarterbacks at Top 10 programs,” Meyer said.
“It’s refreshing to see that. It’s good for college football. It’s good for my son to see it. He’s a hard worker.”
He is also extremely competitive, which was something Meyer was a lot less sure of when he first got to see Miller up close as the quarterback of the Buckeyes. His laid back personality, coupled with the ease at which he seems to play the game, often makes it look like Miller isn’t giving everything he’s got.
Urban Meyer coaches up Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
That’s simply not the case, according to Meyer: at least not anymore.
“His positives are that he’s extremely competitive,” Miller’s coach said.
“If you put him in a winner-loser day, he’s going to try to find the best way to win.”
Everything Meyer saw out of his sophomore quarterback in the spring was positive, but the real test of Miller’s ability to lead the Buckeyes the way Tebow led the Gators is about to be put to the test.
“I’ll tell you after the first week of practice if he’s a good leader,” Meyer said.
“If we throw the ball decent and guys are catching, that means he led them all summer. If we don’t, that means he’s not where he needs to be.”
With how much Meyer puts on his quarterback, the entire 2012 season may very well hang in the balance.
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