Miller Wants To Improve As Passer

Braxton Miller has done a lot of things well this year, but most observers would agree he still has progress to be made when it comes to throwing the football. That's especially true coming off an up-and-down 7-for-19 showing last weekend at Penn State. Miller and head coach Urban Meyer discussed this week how the QB can improve going forward.

When you're a player as dynamic, as talented and as impactful as Braxton Miller, there's a microscope that comes along with your play that simply cannot be avoided.

The good news is that Miller might be as hard on himself as any critic ever could be – and the same could be said of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

Case in point: There was a lot to like about Ohio State's 35-23 win over Penn State on Saturday night in Happy Valley, but Miller's 7-for-19 passing performance wasn't the kind of aerial assault legends are made of.

Miller, who was injured and missed the end of OSU's comeback win against Purdue the week prior, knows that. The sophomore from Huber Heights, Ohio, admitted that he was a little too pumped up for the game in front of 107,000-plus white-clad Nittany Lions fans, especially considering he missed the end of the previous contest.

"I was just excited to go back out there on the field," he said Wednesday. "Coming back from my injury, I had to get back in my footwork all throughout the week. I just had a practice on it."

The Heisman Trophy candidate has still been the straw that stirs the Buckeyes' drink during Big Ten play, but it is fair to say his passing numbers haven't been the greatest as of yet. The game against Penn State, for example, was his third in the last four contests in which he completed half of his passes or fewer.

In league play, Miller is sixth in the league in passing efficiency. In five games against conference foes, the quarterback is 52 for 100 throwing for 773 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.

Those numbers prompted an honest assessment of Miller's progress Monday afternoon from Meyer, who is no stranger to developing quarterbacks into stars.

"If you had to probably really evaluate his progress, I'd say it's probably on schedule," Meyer said. "Somebody would say, ‘Well, he should be a better thrower by now,' and he should be. But there are other areas of his game that have really improved."

Perhaps the biggest issue at this point continues to be inconsistency, something Miller fought during the Penn State game. While his nerves rolled in the first half, Miller was just 4 of 12 passing and sacked three times, and his passes were often inaccurate even when he did have time to set his feet and throw in the pocket.

He was just 3 of 7 in the second half, but did make a pair of crucial throws to Evan Spencer to keep alive one key scoring drive and hit Jacob Stoneburner on a 72-yard slant play to ice the contest. Miller admitted his adrenaline slowed down a bit, which helped him to his second-half improvement.

The end result was a game of highs and lows, and Meyer attributed some of that to the fact his signal caller missed practice the day after the Purdue game.

"I don't think fundamentally he played a very good game Saturday," Meyer said. "He missed a practice, and Braxton can't miss a practice. This Sunday we had a lot of fundamental work."

There's still a lot to like about Miller's performance as the Buckeyes have gone through the meat of the Big Ten schedule. In the passing game, he's done a better job of spreading the ball around, including getting bigger targets like Stoneburner, Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman involved over the middle.

His running abilities haven't seemed to suffer too much, either. He turned in one of his best performances of the season on the ground in the second half against Penn State, almost always making the right read in the option game as the Buckeyes ripped off three straight touchdown drives.

Meyer has also been impressed by Miller's command of the huddle, noting the quarterback had a look of determination in his eye as the Buckeyes picked up the big win to move to 9-0.

Now, the Buckeyes just hope to keep seeing progress in the throwing game as Miller and the team get ready to face Illinois on Saturday.

"Every day you have to work at it," Miller said of throwing the ball. "It's a hard thing to do, but you just have to practice it throughout the week."

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