Ohio State junior quarterback and Springfield native Braxton Miller says he’ll stay humble and lead the Buckeyes this season.
COLUMBUS — Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller set a school record last season with 3,310 total offensive yards, led the Buckeyes to their first undefeated season in ten years, was a Big Ten MVP and a finalist for the Davey O’Brien and Heisman trophies among others.
But don’t be fooled. According to Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, Miller still needs to improve.
“He wasn’t even close to playing to his potential (last season),” Herman said at Ohio State’s media day on Sunday. “He’s still not. He’s closer, but he’s got so much more room for improvement.”
Miller agrees, and said on Sunday that he’d grade his fundamentals in the 2012 season with a D-plus.
“The whole offseason I just worked on my fundamentals,” Miller said. “I’ve been working my whole offseason on getting things together.”
Miller and the Buckeyes are getting things together in their second week of preseason camp. Ohio State enters its 2013 season with high expectations, including high expectations for Miller. The junior quarterback has been mentioned by many analysts as a frontrunner for this season’s Heisman Trophy.
Miller is accustomed to pressure. There was buzz around the Springfield native’s playing abilities from a young age while he amazed fans at Evans Stadium playing for the Springfield Broncos youth league. He became one of the best quarterbacks in the country at Wayne High School and helped lead the Warriors to the Division I state title game in 2011.
Miller said on Sunday he’s used to attention and hype and isn’t affected by it.
“I’m just the same guy I am right now, just humble,” Miller said during an interview with several dozen media members. “I’m just like a regular person.”
It’s part of Miller’s personality according to Herman.
“He’s a very introverted person,” Herman said. “That’s not bad; none of that is bad and none of that is negative. It lends itself to a much tougher job for a guy like me to come in and say, ‘Hey, I’m your fourth offensive coordinator in four years, oh and by the way you’ve got to trust me one hundred percent.’ It takes time, and trust is earned, it’s not given.
“We’ve had a very productive offseason when it comes to mining his relationship and getting to know each other better and bridging that trust gap.”
Head coach Urban Meyer believes Miller’s attitude has changed.
“I love Braxton Miller,” Meyer said. “He and (offensive coordinator) Tom Herman have something really special going on right now. You can see it on the field — you can see his maturity… Now he’s got a little confidence to him.”
It isn’t just attitude, either. The issues with fundamentals that hampered Miller’s passing abilities at times last season and the “tuck-it-and-run” mentality are being mended in practice.
“Every day we see growth after growth after growth,” Herman said. “We completed more balls in a third-down scrimmage scenario in a ten minute, sixteen play deal (in practice last week) than maybe we did all year last year. A lot of it had to do with (Miller). He’s better, he’s more comfortable, and he understands things. He’s patient.”
Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier said Miller’s become more of a leader in practice, including with defensive players. With the issues Miller had at times last season, Herman said it’s understandable why it’s taken time for Miller to become accustomed to leading.
“I don’t know if he’s ever going to be a Tim Tebow or a Drew Brees just yell at you non-stop, fire-up-the-troops guy,” Herman said. “I think he has certainly come out of his shell…. Because of his lack development at times last year, he probably shouldn’t have been a very vocal leader and probably shouldn’t have been in the position that he was. Now that we see him continuing to grow as a quarterback which then in turn gives him more confidence and gives him more capabilities to become a leader.
“He has become a better quarterback, which has allowed him to become a better leader.”
Miller said he learned to be a better leader this offseason, going so far as to organize throwing sessions with teammates.
“That’s what the guys look forward to in a leader on the offense,” Miller said. “On the defensive side too. It gets them going and makes them feel better… I’m a different type of person on the field.”
There are plenty of weapons surrounding Miller on offense. Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall, and Rod Smith return to add depth at running back. Devin Smith and Corey Brown return at receiver. Several freshman look to make an immediate impact on offense.
“I’ve got ten other guys on the field with me, and I just want to make them better, to the point that we can go farther and win a Big Ten title,” Miller said.
The 2013 season is the first to be unscathed by the “Tattoo-gate” scandal of 2010. The Buckeyes have no postseason ban in their road for this December.
“It feels a lot better,” Miller said. “You got something to look forward to towards the end. It was a good season last year for the seniors going 12-0. We’ve got to make the best of it this year.”
Miller said a part of that comes from avoiding distractions like the kind teammates Hyde, Bradley Roby and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel ran into in the offseason.
“I try to stay out of all that stuff,” Miller said. “… I just keep it level-headed. When I’m on the field, I just go about my business.”
Ohio State’s business begins on Aug. 31 against Buffalo.
“We’ve still got a couple things we’ve got to get organized,” Miller said. “So far, it’s going good. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to overcome, we’ve got to come back together as a family. Hopefully we get those two extra games we didn’t get last year.”
The Next Step: A series from Top Billing Sports.
The “Next Step” series from Top Billing Sports profiles native Springfield and Dayton, Ohio area athletes who play collegiate athletics.
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Braxton Miller media day interview
Tom Herman media day interview