Miller Hopes Slow and Steady Improvement Leads to Fast Results
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Out of the corner of his eye, Braxton Miller saw one of his receivers flashing open across the middle. He gathered his feet, checked his surroundings and looked back for the open man.
Photo by Jim Davidson
By the time he let the ball fly, his receiver had almost finished his route and the pass sailed over the top of his head and landed incomplete on the Turf.
Miller just shook his head as he turned back. He knew he had missed a golden opportunity, but senior DeVier Posey was quickly by his side to talk about the miscue.
“That’s a special kid right there,” Posey said of Ohio State’s freshman quarterback.
“Braxton is athletically one of the most gifted kids at the position that I’ve seen, with the things he can do in the pocket.”
It’s interesting that Posey would focus on what Miller can do when he’s in the pocket, considering most of the praise has been directed at his elusiveness in the open field.
There were a few times during Saturday’s jersey scrimmage when Miller faced pressure. He didn’t panic. Instead, his natural instincts took over, and his swift feet left defenders searching for the piece of jersey they swore they had their hands on.
“Oh man, Braxton. Wow. He’s pretty talented man,” defensive back Corey Brown said.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He’s doing some pretty impressive things. I think he’ll be really good, he just needs to work on his throwing ability more and just learn the playbook.”
Unlike his predecessor, Miller’s throwing ability has never really been a question, but it is now directly tied to his understanding of the offense. He has a strong arm and a quick release, but it takes more than that to get the ball where it needs to go at this level.
“You have to read the defense and the routes and the fronts at the same time while hiking the ball,” Miller said.
“I also have to make the right calls for the line to shift when they blitz, because I’m not about to get myself blown up.”
That’s a lot to take in for a teenager playing in first fall camp at Ohio State. Tailback Jaamal Berry was in a similar situation last season as he tried to get on the field as a true freshman.
“Coming from high school, it is a pretty difficult task to take on,” said Berry, who was an Under Armour All-American, just like Miller.
“But if you’re in the film room day and night it will come to you. Repetition after repetition, it will come easier to you.”
When Miller first enrolled at Ohio State back in January, he admits he was ‘overwhelmed’ with the amount of information the coaches wanted him to learn. Juggling class and the off-season weight room doesn’t exactly leave hours a day for studying the playbook, but Miller began to attack it in sections.
“I just take a couple things out and learn them, then the next day learn a couple more,” said Miller, who has been in this position before.
As a freshman at Huber Heights Wayne High School, Miller was competing with a veteran for the starting quarterback spot. He had transferred in after eighth grade and probably wasn’t ready to start for varsity at 14 years old.
Wayne coach Jay Minton went with his veteran in the season-opener against nationally ranked Cincinnati Colerain, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that his 14-year-old freshman gave him the best chance to win.
“I’m usually conservative with our players,” Minton explained at the time.
“But this kid is a phenom.”
After a standout high school career—which included four years as the starting quarterback at Wayne—Miller comes to Columbus with nearly the same expectations that were thrust upon Terrelle Pryor as a freshman at Ohio State.
His recruitment wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Pryor’s back in 2008, but Miller enters a similar situation in Columbus. The Buckeyes have a veteran quarterback—at least in age—who is slotted to start the season-opener against Akron.
Senior Joe Bauserman has performed well enough this fall to hold on to the top spot in the quarterback rotation, but that could change as Miller continues to learn his playbook heading into the 2011 season.
“I’d say I’m about almost there, but not all the way there,” Miller said.
“I have four years to go and every day is a learning experience for me. I’m just taking everything slow.”
There is a concept that slow and steady wins the race, but with less than two weeks to go before the start of the 2011 season, Miller also knows it is crunch time. The Buckeyes seem prepared to play two quarterbacks—at least early in the season—if that’s what is best for the team.
Miller has overheard his coaches talking about him as a guy who needs to be on the field this fall, but he also knows he has a long way still to go.
“I’ve made a bunch of mistakes, but now I’m fixing them,” he said.
“That’s why you watch film, to critique yourself.”
No one is expecting perfection from Miller right away, although fans have a low tolerance for rookie mistakes. Like Pryor, he will likely be given a few games to get his feet wet before he is expected to start playing like a third-year starter.
Those expectations are just fine with Miller.
“It’s all about getting the job done,” he said.
“I leave my heart on the field. I leave it all out there; play hard and play fast.”
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