Heisman dreams seem legitimate for Miller
JUL 18, 2013 3:02p ET
You won't find a fancy website devoted to it, or even a formal campaign from Ohio State. Maybe that will come later. Maybe it won't come at all.
But Miller is part of Ohio State's traveling party for next week's Big Ten Media Days, and more than that Miller is the quarterback for a team that should be in the top five (or even top three) of every major national preseason poll. He's the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, and now he's an upperclassman being asked by his coach to be more of a leader for a team that seems to welcome the big expectations surrounding it.
If the Buckeyes have another good season -- there's little reason to think otherwise -- there's a great chance Miller will big numbers like the ones he posted last year. Bigger numbers, probably.
Heisman numbers? Time will tell. But he looks like a legitimate candidate.
It's safe to say Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn't want Miller to be Johnny Manziel, the returning winner and probably the favorite to repeat heading into this season. But coaches are the real stars of today's college football landscape, and returning quarterbacks are the known commodities.
Everybody will be watching Manziel, Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. Miller and Oregon's Marcus Mariota -- as well as South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney -- probably round out the top tier. It's a long way from now till December, and at this time last year Manziel hadn't played a college football game.
There's something to be said for a name and a name brand when it comes to awards and outside honors, and even if it's gradually and subtly, Ohio State is going to push Miller more toward the spotlight. In his first two years, Miller has been camera-shy. He's never seemed intimidated by reporters or the attention, but he's never sought it out, either. Last season he was a man of many touchdowns and few words.
Miller ran for 13 touchdowns and threw 15 last season. Ohio State wants to run upwards of 90 plays per game in its high-tempo spread offense and is counting on Miller to run it more efficiently now that he has a year under his belt. The coaching staff's hope is that Miller will make better decisions, take fewer hits and produce more big plays.
Thirty-five total touchdowns doesn't seem a crazy number. You've seen the Buckeyes' schedule, right?
Miller should be better. More confident. Stronger. Maybe even faster, though he certainly was already fast. This summer, Meyer said "we haven't seen the ceiling with Braxton. He can be so much better. I'm anxious to see it like everyone else. The guys around him are so much better."
Miller completed 58.3 percent of his passes last year, up from 54 percent when he finished his freshman season as the starter in an offense that was both antiquated and a mess. He ran 227 times for 1,271 yards after sack yardage was subtracted.
He was officially credited with 16 or more rushing attempts in a game nine times last season -- and 20 or more in six games. Four times he completed 10 or fewer passes in a game.
Numbers sometimes lie, but those point to what we already knew, that the biggest step left in Miller's development comes in the passing game. He has the arm strength but needs to improve his touch and his decision making, things that should come with a better grasp of the offense and better chemistry with his supporting cast.
His ability not just to run but to turn simple plays -- and broken plays, too -- into big, game-changing ones may always be his greatest strength. Each step he makes as a passer makes him that much more dangerous and makes Ohio State that much tougher to defend. Like Manziel, he has rare gifts and instincts.
In addition to posting gaudy individual numbers, Heisman winners generally play for big-time programs, play on conference-title winning teams and produce a "Heisman" moment -- or two. Ohio State is going to play at least four prime-time games this fall before Michigan and, potentially, a Big Ten Championship Game.
After a pass-heavy month of spring practice Meyer said Miller has taken "quantum leaps with his leadership ability." With no formal coaching allowed from the end of spring practice in mid-April until training camp starts in early August, Meyer said the summer would be Miller's time to really grow as a leader.
He said the results will be evident when August comes. Starting on the last day of August, we'll all get to see.
Might those results lead Miller and Meyer to New York in mid-December?
Last fall, both Miller and Meyer shied away from Heisman talk. There were other goals, they both said, and there would be time for that later.
That time very well could be now.
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