Miller Not Content After Breakout Season

Braxton Miller's performance during the 2012 season was incredible, but anyone who watched the star Ohio State quarterback knows there's still more potential that can be tapped in the junior. With that in mind, Miller has heeded the OSU staff's call to become a better player during the offseason, work that is starting to pay off.

Finishing fifth in the country in Heisman Trophy balloting. Being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Hounded for autographs – and told of high expectations for 2013 – everywhere he goes.

There are a lot of reasons Braxton Miller could be a different, cockier person than he was a season ago when he led the Ohio State football team to an unblemished 12-0 record.

It's fair to say that hasn't happened, though. The Huber Heights, Ohio, native is the same diligent, hard worker the Buckeyes had a season ago.

For example, Miller and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman were challenged this offseason by head coach Urban Meyer to make the OSU sophomore into the most fundamentally sound signal caller in the country.

With that in mind, Miller tripped to California over the winter to visit with noted quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., picking up tips on how to play with better feet and more in control of his mechanics.

Feeling like the work helped, Miller said the challenge to be the best in the nation is something ingrained in him.

"I think about that all the time, every time I step on the field," Miller said. "I know when a ball sails on me now. I worked on that in the offseason, got out in L.A., so I know what's going on if I throw a bad ball. I have to keep working on the fundamental things and everything will fall into place."

Meyer was happy to see such initiative out of his signal caller.

"I think he just went out there once over Christmas break," Meyer said. "I liked it because the last time we're allowed to coach Braxton was the Friday before our rivalry game, and that's a lot of days without us being able to coach him.

"I hear great things about George. I think he's an Ohio guy. I'm glad Braxton did it. Instead of playing video games or whatever, he's out working on the fundamentals of quarterback play, so I loved it."

If Miller does in fact keep taking a step forward, the results could be scary.

Ohio State scored 37.2 points per game last year, good for fifth in school history, and Miller was dynamic enough to be named the Big Ten's MVP by the Chicago Tribune. He supplied an official school record 3,310 yards of total offense, accounting for 28 total touchdowns while rushing for 1,271 yards and throwing for 2,039 more.

He did it all while still clearly learning the spread offense that was seemingly tailored for him and while skippering a young offense that learned around him, largely thanks to skills that include dazzling agility, good speed and a knack for making the big throw at the right time.

Now, the goal is to make those big throws become more common, including boosting a completion percentage that finished the season at 58.3.

"Now we have to catch the entire package up with that in terms of being a cerebral quarterback, being a very fundamentally sound quarterback, being a manager of the game, being a leader out there," Herman said. "Those are the things that once he masters that – which is a process, and he's done a great job so far – the sky is the limit."

Miller, who said he wants to complete 75 percent of his passes by the end of spring, is using the past as a learning tool as well. He has watched plenty of film on his performance a season ago and sees where his skittish nature in the pocket – brought on by his rawness as a quarterback – hurt him at times.

"Sometimes I read the coverage too fast and I get jittery," he said. "My feet just move. It's out of place and the ball would sail on me sometimes. I'm just working on that right now."

Meyer – both his pupil's biggest cheerleader and most realistic critic – is starting to see progress in that regard.

"He's not doing great, but he's doing very good," Meyer said. "I thought he did last year. It's just you wish he hadn't played that first year. He wasn't ready to play. He still won Big Ten Freshman of the Year, but that just tells you how talented he is. His quarterback development is behind a little bit. As a player, it's not. He's a good player."

Miller also believes he's a lot more comfortable in the offense now than he was a season ago, a scary thought considering running backs coach Stan Drayton said the team operated at about 60 percent of its playbook a season ago, a number that should be going up in 2013.

"It's just knowing where the guys are going to be at," Miller said. "Last year, I second guessed myself because I didn't know the plays as well, but this year I'm getting much better at the plays and throwing guys open, things like that."

The last piece of the puzzle might be the leadership aspect. Miller is more reserved than boisterous, but he's trying to become the vocal leader of the team exactly where the team needs it – at the quarterback position.

"Every time I come in the building I try to bring energy to everybody," he said. "I just keep talking to Coach Meyer and Coach Herman about it. I have to keep getting better and keep working on that."

If he keeps at it, more copies of Sports Illustrated might be on that way – not that he'll notice.


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