2012 Buckeye Rewind - Quarterbacks
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2012 Buckeyes were expected to be a vastly improved bunch from the team that slumped to 6-7 the previous season, but not many would have really believed an undefeated season was on the horizon.
Optimism is always high in Columbus, and it was soaring especially high after Urban Meyer agreed to return from his brief retirement to coach at a place that is near and dear to his heart.
Meyer went out and hired one of the best coaching staffs in America, and unleashed his new strength coach, Mickey Marotti, on the returning players. Most of them had no idea what they were getting themselves into, but the ones who persevered were part of something special.
Something no one can ever take away from them.
In our 2012 Rewind series, we will take a look back at this 2012 Ohio State football team for a better understanding of how Meyer pieced together one of the great seasons – in many ways one of the great teams – in school history.
There is no better place to start than the quarterback position, where Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton both played critical roles in a perfect season that seemed to channel the heroics of a group that wore these scarlet and gray jerseys 10 years earlier.
Expectations Coming Into the Season
Photo by Jim Davidson
It’s hard to really explain the expectations that were placed on Braxton Miller coming into the 2012 football season, but a new head coach, new offensive coordinator and new quarterbacks coach (the latter two being Tom Herman) moved them right into the stratosphere.
To really understand the expectations surrounding Miller heading into his sophomore season, we have to briefly look back at the end of his freshman year. The Wayne High School product was thrust into an awful situation that just continued to get worse last year. He clearly wasn’t ready to be the savior Ohio State needed, but Miller showed glimpses of what he might be capable of during that 34-27 loss at Nebraska last year.
He was probably the best player on the field in the first half, rushing for 91 yards and throwing for 95 more in the game before an ankle injury knocked him out in the second half. Things spiraled downward for OSU from there, but that sort of launched Miller’s rookie season in the right direction.
Two week later, he ran for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Wisconsin before heaving the famous game-winning touchdown pass to Devin Smith under the lights at Ohio Stadium.
He would rush for over 100 yards in three of his last four games as a freshman, and his performance against Michigan was a few touch passes away from being one of the all-time greats. He finished with 235 yards through the air and 100 yards on the ground, propelling his stock to a new level heading into this season.
How the Season Played Out
Miller hit the ground running, literally, in the first game of the season. He ran for 161 yards and threw for 207 more while tallying three scores in a 56-10 win over Miami University.
It wasn’t exactly a Heisman Trophy game, but the next week Miller ran for 141 yards and three scores in a 31-16 win over UCF. He had over 130 yards on the ground in five of the first seven games of his sophomore season, propelling him right to the top of everyone’s Heisman Trophy list in mid-October.
Photo by Jim Davidson
A scary moment during the Purdue game probably erased Miller’s chances of getting to New York as a sophomore, but it opened the door for backup Kenny Guiton to save the day. We heard all about Guiton’s transformation in the offseason, but those were just words when the kid from Aldine Ike trotted onto the field in the second half of that game against the Boilermakers.
The Buckeyes were trailing, even when Miller was in the game, but Guiton didn’t help things immediately by throwing an interception while Miller was being taken to the OSU Medical Center across the street.
Things were looking bleak, but Guiton never quit. He never backed down. When he got the ball back, he drove the Buckeyes right down the field. He hit Chris Fields for the touchdown and threw a perfect pass to Jeff Heuerman for the game-tying conversion.
Ohio State would win in overtime, and Miller returned a week later to find Jake Stoneburner for the game-winning touchdown against Penn State.
Miller would eventually brake the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback and total yards by any player in a single-season. He just missed an invitation to New York in December, finishing fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
What Should We Expect in 2013
Everything is on the table for Miller next season. He will be a junior in his second season working with Meyer and Herman instead of Luke Fickell and Nic Siciliano. He will have five of his top six receivers back next year, along with a number of talented offensive players who are joining the team in the class of 2013.
He should also have tailbacks Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall at his disposal next season, but it’s all about No. 5. He’s going to be on the cover of every magazine – at least the ones in the Midwest – and he’s going to be at or near the top of everyone’s Heisman Trophy list.
If Miller can stay healthy he should be a lock to at least make the trip to New York next December, especially if the Buckeyes are on their way to the BCS title game. That is a lot to expect of a 20-year old kid, but Miller has all the God-given ability anyone could ever ask for as a runner. If he can become a more consistent passer, it will be, as Meyer said, comical what he can do.
It’s amazing the kind of difference a year can make for a young quarterback. It was fun to watch Miller develop from an awkward freshman with more talent than he knew what to do with into a borderline superstar this season.
Few players are more exciting with the football in their hands, and Miller really does have some natural ability when it comes to throwing the football. His arm strength, release and delivery are all right there. He needs to learn how to keep his mechanics whenever he is on the run or when thing break down in the pocket.
The good news for Ohio State is that Miller is going to have another offseason with one of the better young offensive minds in the game. We know from Meyer’s past that he can do wonders with a quarterback, especially in his second year.
Just look at what Meyer did with guys like Josh Harris, Alex Smith and Tim Tebow in year two. That is cause for excitement. The biggest issue with Miller will always be his health, so it’s critical for the Buckeyes that Guiton is back for his senior season next year.
Maybe Coach Guiton will be around in 2014 as a grad assistant, too.
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