Dantonio Sees "Immense Growth" in Buckeye QB
By Brandon Castel
Mark Dantonio has already seen Braxton Miller up close for himself, but not the one his Michigan State team will face on Saturday in its Big Ten-opener up in East Lansing.
Dantonio’s ferocious Spartans defense trampled Ohio State’s young quarterback into the turf a year ago during Michigan State’s 10-7 win in Columbus, but the former OSU defensive coordinator knows stopping Braxton Miller won’t be nearly as easy this time around.
warms up before last year's MSU game.
Photo by Dan Harker
“First of all physically he's more developed. He's a bigger, stronger guy than he was last year,” Michigan State’s head coach said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
“He was a true freshman last year. I think he was playing in his third game last year maybe, as I remember. He was a brand new freshman in a system. Now he has all of last year under his belt, a spring, summer practice, four more games, a new offense under his belt.”
Miller was actually making just the second start of his young career after coming off the bench in relief of senior Joe Bauserman two weeks earlier against Miami (Fla.). He had all kinds of ball-security issues during Ohio State’s 24-6 loss to the Hurricanes, but he also flashed some glimpses of the brilliance we have seen from the Buckeyes’ young quarterback as a sophomore.
“He's a much more experienced player. He's more in control. He's seen more as a leader,” Dantonio added on Tuesday.
“All those things are helping him grow as a player. You've seen immense growth in a year. He's a very exciting player, dynamic player, and he makes them go.”
The only direction the Buckeyes went during their loss to Michigan State last October was reverse. Miller completed five of his 10 passes for just 56 yards and Ohio State was held to a paltry 35 yards on 39 rushing attempts.
Miller didn’t have a run for more than three yards against William Gholston, Jerel Worthy and the Michigan State defense.
“I'm not going to watch the game,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said this week.
“I've watched a lot of the cut‑ups of the game, but you don't have time to watch the whole game. But, yeah, it looked (like) we came out trying to throw a little bit and had a bunch of sacks. And the defense forces you to do that. So Braxton, it was his second start, yeah, he's come a long way.”
Meyer is well-acquainted with Dantonio’s style of play on defense. The two have never faced off on the football field, but they might as well have considering how much of Dantonio’s philosophy comes from Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“Commitment to stop the run,” Meyer said of both coaches.
“I think coaching against Coach Saban for – he's a little more complicated in the pass defense – but very similar pro‑style, pound‑you‑on offense. Very similar type mentality.”
Before he was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State, Dantonio was the secondary coach in East Lansing under Saban in the late 1990s. He eventually helped the Buckeyes to an undefeated BCS National Championship in 2002, but he has no plans to take it easy on his former school.
Especially now that Jim Tressel is no longer running the program in Columbus.
“It does make it easier,” Dantonio said Tuesday.
“I know Urban, everything. Good guy, all that kind of stuff, but it makes it easier when you don't have a real personal attachment because it's tough when you play against your good friends.”
Dantonio remains close with OSU defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who served as the school’s interim head coach a year ago. It’s possible, knowing Dantonio, he actually felt sympathy for Fickell in that game a year ago.
Braxton Miller in 2012
Photo by Jim Davidson
There won’t be any room for that this time around, however, especially with a new and improved Braxton Miller running the Ohio State offense.
“He'll be hard. He's that type of guy. He's a guy that's going to create loose plays. But he also has quarterback designed runs that are for him, certain different things that they do,” Dantonio said.
“It's going to be a tough job because he's like a tailback in the backfield that can throw it. He runs with power. He's a spin runner which means he'll spin on contact, he'll juke if you set up on him a little bit. He brings a different dynamic to the football game.”
The Spartans have already faced a dynamic running quarterback this season in Notre Dame’s Everett Golson. They are also quite familiar with Michigan’s Denard Robinson, but Miller brings a little something different to table than either of those two.
“A different dynamic that Everett Golson didn't do as much in our Notre Dame game. He's a different type of quarterback,” Dantonio added.
“Where Golson may look to throw first, he may look to run first. He's a tailback that can throw in the backfield. He can make you miss, do a lot of different things, run with power and then throw it. He'll be a tough guy to defend.”
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