Spring Won't Be Waste For Miller

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller won't be practicing this spring, it seems, but the Buckeye staff won't let the 15 chances to get better to slip away. That will be key for both the Buckeyes' chances in 2014 as well as Miller's pro potential after his final year at OSU.

It's fair to say Urban Meyer knows quarterbacks.

The Ohio State football head coach mentored record-breaking Josh Harris at Bowling Green, tutored No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith at Utah and coaxed national championships out of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at Florida.

Meyer has worked with some great signal callers, for sure, but he knows it's not an easy position to learn. In fact, when the proverbial bullets start flying, it might be the hardest in organized sports – and for that, Meyer says to look at the NFL ranks to see just how many highly touted guys wash out despite all the coaching, skills and experience in the world.

"There's a lot of average quarterbacks out there," Meyer said. "You've got to be tough to stand back there with a pass rush coming and still keep your eyes downfield. I'd say that's probably typical of every quarterback I've been around (to make that rise). You have to fight through that."

His current charge, Braxton Miller, has done an admirable job of that. Meyer recently called him "the most improved quarterback in America" from his up-and-down freshman season in which he completed just 54.1 percent of his passes to his junior season in which he captured his second Big Ten Silver Football while completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Of course, his progress is far from over. Meyer has admitted that "Braxton is not where we want him to be," and that much was proved when Miller chose to come back for his senior campaign.

Many expected him to consider heading to the pros following his junior campaign after he finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2012, but last year's season that was marred by three games missed with knee injury and two season-ending losses left him with some unfinished business.

It also left NFL draft scouts seemingly unsure where to draft the dual-threat quarterback. Reports indicated the draft advisory board informed him he was a likely mid- to late-round choice, and NFL.com analyst Charles Davis wrote that Miller would be best served by returning for a final campaign.

The general consensus among scouts was that his inconsistent passing performances – including his 30-for-60 showing with five TDs and three picks in the last three games of the season – were reason for him to return.

The way Meyer sees it, Miller has progressed from needing to work on fundamentals such as footwork and balance to skills like verbal communication and keeping his eyes on the secondary so he's properly able to diagnose where – and when – to throw the ball.

Improving those two skills will be key as Miller hits the combine circuit a year from now, not to mention as the Buckeyes try to keep the program on its upward trajectory in 2014. Of course, limiting that progress is the fact Miller had offseason shoulder surgery just before the start of spring practice, which will likely prevent him from throwing a ball during the 15-practice session that runs through April 12.

"If he doesn't have a good summer it will cost him a lot," Meyer said. "He'll be a very average player. I think he understands his weaknesses – his verbal skills and keeping his eyes on the secondary. The good thing is you can do that without having him throw. It's obviously better if you throw, but you saw him use every snap, watch things – he was engaged.

"He has a lot riding on this now. If he doesn't fix this, it's a different spot than he wants to be in."

Helping in that realm is a "contraption" devised by the OSU staff and videographer Mark Quisenberry, a camera and microphone system that records both what the QB sees and what he thinks during each play.

"We have a contraption set up where he actually calls the play and he also tells us what he sees in the secondary," Meyer said. "Every play, we're having him say what he sees in the secondary. It'll be a productive spring."

The film taped each day is then broken down by the staff, including offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman.

"The video itself is just OK," Herman said. "The audio is what I was the most interested in, and it was really good. To be able to stand there and have a conversation and verbalize every single play … ‘OK, here's what I'm looking at. There's the Sam. Ok, it looks like quarters, but the Sam's outside leverage so it might be this and it might be that. I'm going to go here and go there," and just have him talk and talk and talk and talk.

"One of the things we want to do is, he knows football. He's actually really football smart. It's the speaking the language thing that we're working on with him so when a GM or a scout or an offensive coordinator comes in this time next year and puts him on the board, all that football knowledge can come out. So the more he can talk and articulate that, the better."

Just how much Miller is able to continue his improvement this offseason will bear direct influence on both the Buckeyes' 2014 record and where the Huber Heights, Ohio, native ends up being drafted after the season.

One thing is for sure, though – he has his mind set on finishing what he started at Ohio State, one practice observation at a time.

"You want to accomplish things that you didn't accomplish in your first three years," he said. "I feel like I left little things out on the field, and I can achieve all my goals. It's some things I think about, and that's why I wanted to come back."

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