Off and Running
Braxton Miller Begins His Chase for Greatness
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It had been a long time since Urban Meyer saw Braxton Miller throw a football.
Like a really long time. Try 105 days of waiting and wondering if his star quarterback was doing the things he needed to do in order to take the next step towards greatness.
A big step. Huge. Maybe the biggest one.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Meyer found out Tuesday just how far No. 5 has come since a sophomore season where he finished fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy while leading the Buckeyes to an undefeated 12-0 record.
“I thought Braxton Miller had a heck of a day, I mean a heck of a day,” Meyer said Tuesday evening after the first of 15 practices this spring.
“He looked a lot better. That’s one day, but unless I get the grade back and he didn’t do well… but I know he did. I was with him with the entire day.”
Of course he was. Where else would he be?
Meyer loves coaching the punt team and spent some time watching the “young puppies” on the defensive line this week, but home is where the heart is. For Meyer, that means offense. It means getting a chance to watch Miller throw the ball to guys like Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Jordan Hall and Michael Thomas.
Like he said, it was only one day, but the second-year head coach liked what he saw from his junior quarterback during Ohio State’s two-hour workout on the indoor practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Fundamentally his footwork was not very good at times last year. I thought it was outstanding today,” Meyer gushed.
“His confidence in the receivers that they’re going to be in the right place at the right time, I believe the word was clown show. It’s not a clown show anymore.”
Not with Miller running the show.
He put together one of the all-time great statistical season in school history as a sophomore last season. The 6-2, 215-pound quarterback threw for over 2,000 yards and completed 58 percent of his passes with only six interceptions, but most of his damage was done on the ground.
Miller finished fourth in the Big Ten in rushing last year with 1,271 yards in only 12 games. He scored 13 touchdowns on the ground to go with his 15 through the air, but his fundamentals were still a work very much in progress during his second season as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.
“When he's good, he's really good, and when he's bad, he's bad,” OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
“We need him to be really good more often. His good is really, really stinkin' good and he just needs to continue working on the consistency of it, because he's capable of that.”
In the eyes of his coach, Miller has a chance to be among the best ever, but only if he can first become one of the best fundamentally at his position across the country.
“I’d put this kid as talented as all of them, maybe more,” Meyer said, referencing some of the other quarterbacks he has coached in his career.
“Fundamentally he could be there, but he’s not because he panics. He has all the skills to be one of those guys in New York, but he’s not there yet.”
For that, Miller made a trip California during Christmas break to work with George Whitfield Jr., a now-famous quarterback instructor with an impressive list of clientele.
“I liked it because the last time we were allowed to coach Braxton was the Friday before our rival game. That’s a lot of days without us being able to coach him,” Meyer said Tuesday.
“We can give him film to watch, but any time you have some work with him… I’m glad Braxton did it. Instead of sitting there playing video games or whatever he’s out working on fundamentals and quarterback play. So I love it.”
Meyer wasn’t all that familiar with Whitfield, other than the fact he is from Ohio, but his offensive coordinator believes Miller may have heard about him from Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is only the latest in a long line of Whitfield pupils, a list which also includes names Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and former OSU target Tajh Boyd.
“I don’t know him, I hear great things about him,” Meyer added.
“Braxton enjoyed his time with him. How much he’ll do it again, I don’t know. That’s up to Braxton.”
There were reports on Thursday Miller might go down to see Whitfield in Oklahoma, where he is working with former Sooners’ quarterback Landry Jones, during spring break. But a source at Ohio State confirmed Miller would not be making the trip to Norman next week.
“The quarterback guru working with Braxton is a guy named Tom Herman,” Meyer said.
“That’s the guy getting paid to coach him, but I hear great things about George.”
While in San Diego, Miller worked with Whitfield – a former Massillon Tiger who played one year for Jim Tressel at Youngstown State – on everything from footwork to pocket presence.
He also spent a good amount of time working on touch passes and what Whitfield has termed “chaos mechanics” as he attempts to make the transition from running quarterback to a quarterback who can command a football game the way some of those other guys have for Meyer in the past.
“The next step’s a big one,” Meyer said.
“If he takes the next step, it could be a lot of fun for Columbus.”
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