Miller Impressed As Leader In Spring

It might be a stretch to say there's a new Braxton Miller in town, but teammates and coaches noticed the Ohio State quarterback took on a more vocal role this spring. That's good news for a team that hopes to take the next step in 2013.

Urban Meyer has watched Braxton Miller improve in a lot of ways, but one gets the sense the way the junior signal caller improved the most this spring particularly excites the Ohio State head coach.

When talking about the progress Miller – who equally thrilled Buckeye fans with his production and tantalized them with the thought he could be grow even more – made this offseason, Meyer didn't speak of a newfound sense of calm in the pocket or a better understanding of the option offense.

Instead, Meyer was most excited about another important part of Miller's job – his skills as a team leader.

"His biggest improvement is the value of that position," Meyer said. "He plays quarterback. He's doing a much better job as far as communication with players, as far as leadership, as far as being out there early, being the leader.

"He's a guy that practice started at 3 o'clock, he got there at 2:59 because he was getting taped and taking care of his business. Now he's one of the first guys out there, his energy."

"I'm very pleased in a lot of the things we've seen this spring out of Braxton. We've asked him to and he's done it, so I'm very impressed with it. Obviously that's not the football part – he's done some very good things football wise, too – but just the leadership responsibilities for that position."

Stepping into a more vocal role doesn't necessarily come naturally to Miller, whose public persona is not someone who feels the need to be in the spotlight. He doesn't seek out microphones when it comes to interviews, and his answers to questions don't often last more than 10 words or so.

Teammates swear Braxton has plenty of personality – his blond Mohawk this spring might attest to that – but in general, Miller can be a quiet kid, and that was evidenced in the past with the tact he's taken toward stepping to the fore of the team.

To hear his fellow Buckeyes tell it, though, that has changed as Miller has transitioned into his third year.

"I think he's more confident in himself now," backup quarterback Kenny Guiton said. "He's stepping up and he's saying more now. He's noticing he's an older guy now. He's not young Braxton anymore. He's stepping up and he's talking and letting guys know what they need to do and making sure everybody on the field knows what they have to do."

That was perhaps shown most vividly when Miller took a shot from Noah Spence on an option play during the April 2 practice. Miller was in a black no-contact jersey and didn't appreciate the hit, so much so that he went over to the defensive sideline after the play and had to be separated from the bench.

"I think this spring he's stepped up the vocal part," senior safety C.J. Barnett said. "Even one time, he came over to the defensive sideline and was about to fight one of us for a hit. You need things like that just so we have something we can build our team around. We have a certainly kind of attitude and toughness about ourselves if our quarterback can do that. We know we're going in the right direction."

For his part, Miller said he has made a conscious effort to be a more vocal presence, which is key coming out of the quarterback position, a spot where leadership is essential for just about any successful team.

"Every time I come into the building, I try to bring energy to everybody," he said. "It came out of me. I just kept talking to Coach Meyer and (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom) Herman about it. I have to keep getting better and keep working on that."

Miller admits it has been a process, though. When he first arrived at Ohio State, he was thrown into a quarterback battle, which he ended up winning in time for the Big Ten season. However, the program was going through a state of flux after the firing of head coach Jim Tressel, and Miller took some time to get comfortable.

"When I first got here, yeah, it was (tough) because nobody really told me how to be a leader like I should be," he said. "Now I'm working on the little things like that with Coach Meyer, and I'm getting better at it."

Members of the huddle he commands are starting to see a big difference, one that could be an indication the Buckeyes are in store for another strong campaign.

"I think he's just grown up a lot not only as football player but as a leader and just a person off the field," senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. "He has a lot more responsibility now. We lost a lot of good leaders from last year and I think he's starting to recognize that more and more every day.

"I've seen him this spring grab a guy by the collar and say, 'You need to step up how you're playing or doing something.' That's something he wouldn't have done a year ago. So he's grown up not only as a player but as a leader and a person too. It's been good to see so far."

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