Miller Prepping For Bigger Junior Season

Braxton Miller accepted the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football trophy during a break in the Ohio State basketball team's 69-59 win over Northwestern on Thursday night. The Ohio State quarterback, though pleased with the award, spoke with reporters about his offseason and what's expected of the Buckeyes in his junior year.

Braxton Miller stood in the Value City Arena concourse during the first half of the Ohio State basketball team's 69-59 win over Northwestern Thursday night patiently waiting to greet the fan base he spent the entire fall dazzling.

Moments later, Ohio State's star quarterback strolled out onto the hardwood during a timeout to accept the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football trophy, an award given annually to the Big Ten's best player.

Miller smiled and waved as he held his accolade in the air. It was great honor, Miller admitted to assorted members of the media before accepting the trophy in front of a cheering crowd, but it isn't the trophy he's dreamed of holding in front of those very fans since the day he stepped foot on Ohio State's campus.

That would be the crystal football, awarded to the BCS National Champions.

"It's nice and it is a blessing," Miller said humbly, briefly recognizing his most recent award after the immense success he enjoyed during his sophomore season. "But we have bigger things in mind."

Those bigger things, as Miller put it, haven't strayed too far from his thought process as he's endured a rigorous offseason workout regimen that included training with George Whitfield Jr., a quarterback coach that runs a skill camp for the position in his hometown in San Diego, Calif., and ongoing individual sessions with the Buckeyes' skill players.

The star quarterback for one of the biggest football programs in the country, Miller has been reminded incessantly since the Buckeyes' final game last season about next year's expectations: a Big Ten championship, an undefeated season and a national championship.

Oh, and if next season falls in line with those expectations, throw in the Heisman Trophy for good measure. Ball of that up, and it rests squarely on the broad shoulders of Miller. Still, the quarterback smiled and relaxed as if he doesn't have a care in the world.

"No man, this isn't any different," Miller responded to BSB when asked if he feels pressure. "This is how it has been my entire life. We just want to win."

Standing next to Miller's side the whole time was offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who hasn't been able to coach the quarterback since the season ended, but he's heard reports of his star's vast growth since the Michigan game on Nov. 24.

That's the type of news Herman loves to hear, particularly because he has put the onus on Miller to put in the necessary work needed to take another step forward. Sure, the Buckeyes didn't lose a game last season, but Herman was far from pleased with the Buckeyes' offensive output.

"We still have to get better," Herman said. "We may have been the most flawed undefeated team in the history of college football. That's a testament to the kids, too, because they found a way to win every week, but we still have work to do. But it is exciting knowing what we accomplished last year being not even close to potential of what we think we can be."

Accomplishing head coach Urban Meyer's vision of where his program should be offensive turned out to take more than a season. Ohio State, at times, still struggled to throw the football and lacked the necessary balance Meyer expects from a team that belongs in the national title discussion.

Meyer was never satisfied with the production from the Buckeyes' skill positions last year, though he did acknowledge their growth. And the program did address finding offensive playmakers in the 2013 recruiting class with talents like Jalin Marshall, James Clark and Dontre Wilson.

There's no telling how those three players could contribute to Ohio State's offense next season, but Herman is narrowly focused on how the returning players progress. Without having 15 bowl practices, Herman said its imperative that the team picks up from where it left off last year.

"Our main focus has to be the development and the improvement of our current players," Herman said, "because I don't think anybody wants to rely on a kid that gets here in June and doesn't start working on football until August. Having those guys is a luxury more than it is a necessity."

Miller has taken that responsibility as this team's leader and run with it, working out on a daily basis while trying to hone his own craft. That means taking extra care in his mechanics and working with the wide receivers so Meyer can be more comfortable with the passing game come spring practice.

And, of course, there's the chance that the Buckeyes could utilize some freshman to infuse more of that playmaking ability Meyer said lacked last season.

"We tell our guys all the time that we're going to go try and recruit somebody better than you," Herman said. "We'll tell Dontre Wilson, James Clark and Jalin Marshall the same thing. We're always going to try and recruit guys that are better, and if they are and they come here and prove it, then they're going to play.

"There's no such thing as seniority. You play the best guys and it doesn't matter if they're true freshmen or fifth-year seniors. The best guys play."

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