Two years ago, Braxton Miller was king of Columbus.
You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing his likeness. Whether it was a No. 5 jersey in the windows of clothing stores, on the cover of the latest sports issue or even a mural of him on the side of Urban Outfitters on High Street, Miller was everywhere.
While the mural still remains, Miller has gone missing from Ohio State offense.
After a breakout performance against Virginia Tech that had most people putting Miller right back in the Heisman race, the quarterback turned wide receiver has touched the ball just 20 times in the last three games and has not scored a touchdown since his now-famous spin move score against the Hokies.
Despite all of that, coach Urban Meyer said he doesn’t think Miller is lacking in confidence.
“No, it's not lack of effot. It's not attitude. That's great. And he had a good week in practice,” Meyer said after a 38-12 win over Western Michigan. “We'll keep pushing.”
Miller had six touches against Western Michigan and looked, at times, uncomfortable. He dropped the ball on one run out of the quarterback spot and also bobbled a pass he caught, perhaps showing he's pressing to make an impact.
But the man who was once Miller’s backup at quarterback, Cardale Jones, said he doesn’t even think Miller is getting frustrated just yet.
“He feels at home when he's behind center. Just probably trying to get back used to -- you have different things when you're in the box than when you're out wide at receiver,” Jones said. “I don't think he's getting frustrated."
Meyer had hinted at Miller even being able to return punts and kicks, and even listed Miller on the two-deep depth chart as a punt returner. Yet Miller has yet to touch the ball on either a punt or kick return.
Ohio State sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall said even though Miller is his competition for the return spot, he has tried to help Miller along as much as possible.
“I actually helped him the most that I could. I want to see him do well. I think everyone wants to see him do well and for him to be back there, it will just be another exciting weapon on the field,” Marshall said. “If they put both of us back there at times, that worked out well too.”
Through four games this season, Miller has accumulated 261 yards of offense on 29 touches and two scores, both of which came against the Hokies. Many of his touches so far -- including the famous spin-move TD -- have come on direct snaps to Miller. Though Miller and his coaches have maintained his surgically repaired shoulder is healthy enough to throw a pass, he has yet to do so, leading some to say the OSU offense is predictable when he takes direct snaps.
Even so, Meyer said there are reasons to keep that a part of the OSU offense.
"I like it because it's one of the best athletes in America with the ball in his hand, and it's sometimes a rhythmic issue," Meyer said. "It worked pretty well against Virginia Tech, so we're not going to stop that. Maybe what we'll do is, that's a flow of the game type thing. But we have some QB runs, and you don't necessarily want to hammer your other quarterback."
But whether it is on offense or special teams, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said after defeating Western Michigan that Miller is still a big part of the team's plans moving forward.
“He's an important piece to the offense because of his skill set fits our offense and he can do a lot of things. When you have a guy like Braxton and he's made the commitment to this program to stay another year and help us in any role possible, we're trying to find ways to use him to help us win games and help him,” Warinner said. “He's a hard worker, too and a good kid and very team-oriented. We're just trying to find ways that he can help us make plays.”