Miller Taking It Slowly As He Fights For Job

Braxton Miller entered Ohio State with a lot of hype as the No. 2 quarterback in the class of 2011, but the Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne product isn't trying to bite off more than he can chew. Miller said steady growth is his goal both mentally and physically as he tries to win OSU's starting quarterback job.

If Braxton Miller feels like he's been battling for the Ohio State quarterback job with one hand tied behind his back, he's not showing it publicly.

That's no surprise out of the quiet signal caller from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne.

All four of the quarterbacks vying for the starting job, including Miller, have been put in black no-contact jerseys through the first week of practice, even though full-contact practices don't begin until the Buckeyes put on full pads tomorrow.

Those jerseys often drew the ire of former quarterback Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor, and they could be seen as a hindrance to the athletic, dual-threat Miller. When asked about the black shirts, the five-star prospect gave a smile that might have given away his true feelings, but his words showed a diplomatic streak that had to make coaches smile.

"I guess they don't want to hurt the quarterbacks, so I have to wear it," he said. "I'm all right with it. It's helping me out on my drops and making my reads better."

The good news for Miller – who ran for 658 yards and 17 touchdowns despite a leg injury as a senior at Wayne – is that the men doing the evaluating know that taking away Miller's legs is akin to cutting him off at the knees.

"It's hard sometimes to even see his strengths, some of his best qualities when you can't tackle and you're not in pads and that guy isn't live," head coach Luke Fickell said.

Stuck mostly in the pocket, Miller has been hit or miss through the first four days of practice, three of which have been open to the media. Coming off a sensational performance in the April spring game in which he directed scoring drives on three of four possessions, Miller was expected by some to jump right in and become the favorite for the starting job after the June departure of Pryor.

However, while Miller did improve noticeably as the spring went on, he also looked like a true freshman adjusting to the speed of the game at times. That has continued into fall camp, as some of his short and intermediate passes have been off the mark as Miller – who threw for 2,167 yards and 17 scores while leading the Warriors to the Division I title game last year – has worked anywhere from the first unit to the third.

The competition with the Buckeye starters – the famed "Silver Bullets," who have finished among the top defenses in the nation in all six of coordinator Jim Heacock's seasons – when he's on the field is exciting to Miller.

"I like it," he said. "It helps me out. I get back on my drops faster and make my reads faster. That's what I like to play with. You have to be ready."

While the quarterbacks – including Joe Bauserman, Kenneth Guiton and Taylor Graham – have been rotated about equally through each unit, Miller has been the fourth to receive snaps in each drill, but again, he's not complaining.

"As a freshman, I'm going to give everybody that's been here the first reps," he said. "I'll always be last. That's how I'm going to be so I can learn from the mistakes in front of me, you know?"

Miller is also trying to learn off the field when it comes to digesting Ohio State's playbook. He told reporters last week that he had the running plays down but was still learning the passing offense, and on Thursday morning he said he was tasked with memorizing four new plays each day.

"I have to learn them all," he said. "Sometimes I do (feel like my head is swimming) but when I rep it mentally when I'm not in, it helps too, so I just take my time and learn the process day-by-day."

That's not an uncommon occurrence in the Ohio State quarterback room, where coach Nick Siciliano is working with a relatively untested group, none of whom have thrown more than 50 passes in their collegiate careers.

"I think as a young guy, you're going to continue to bring him along," Siciliano said Tuesday of Miller. "Even a fifth-year senior at some point, whether it's a quarterback, wideout, offensive lineman, defensive lineman, you have to bring them along if they haven't played a bunch.

"He hasn't been here for but 17 practices. It's not fair (to rate his understanding of the offense)."

Miller's spring cameo did help in that regard, though, especially as he worked under the tutelage of Pryor, who almost served as Miller's personal coach while he rehabbed an ankle injury.

"I think as a young kid, anytime you can get 15 more practices under your belt where you're getting reps, it's going to make a difference," Siciliano said.

There's also the adjustment of getting used to OSU's fall practice schedule. The Buckeyes are in the midst of six straight days of practicing, with Saturday set to be the team's first two-a-day of fall camp. Team meetings start at 8 in the morning and the last one can go until 10 at night.

"What has surprised me the most is probably waking up every day to this grind," he said. "It's not for everybody. It's hard. It's mental, too. You have to get up and want to do it, get better every day."

As for the expectations from some fans that he be the starter when the season opens Sept. 3 vs. Akron, Miller said he's simply trying to get better every day.

"I just stay humble," he said. "That's what I'm going to be all four years I'm going to be here. That's pretty much it."

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