COLUMBUS, Ohio — A pair of quotes from Ohio State’s annual preseason media day illustrate just how scary Braxton Miller’s move to wide receiver could be for opposing defenses.
"Just catching the ball and already (being) on the second or third level, all you’ve got to do is make one person miss and it’s off to the races," the former quarterback with the electric open-field running ability explained matter of factly.
Of course, given his old position, he brings more to the table than the average receiver or running back.
Article continues below ...
Probably just about anybody who follows college football and even dabbles in the art of armchair quarterbacking began to envision Miller as the ultimate trick play catalyst when his change of positions was first reported, but hearing head coach Urban Meyer actually talk about ways they can use the senior made it all seem that much closer to reality.
"We were going to run a double pass the other day and I want to make sure he’s ready to go throw it, too, so we’re going to keep throwing him this week, too, because that’s going to be that weapon that can do that as well as what he can do (as a runner)," Meyer said.
However, Meyer’s statement also carried a bit of caution.
While coaches and fans alike are excited to see Miller return to the field after a one-year absence, it’s hard to ignore the threat of re-injury that hangs over him on a daily basis.
"God forbid all of a sudden he throws that darned thing and something happens," Meyer said of Miller’s surgically repaired right (throwing) shoulder. "I just want to make sure he’s ready."
The coach called the upcoming week a big one for Miller’s transition from quarterback to receiver. The more reps he can get, the more he can improve and therefore be a legitimate weapon for an offense that will be a bit short-handed for its season opener because of suspensions to three receivers.
When he was told that Cardale Jones — who is competing with J.T. Barrett to be the starting quarterback — told reporters the first day of practice looked like Miller’s first day as a wide receiver (which it was), Miller seemed incredulous.
"The first time? Yeah, right, go ask him again," Miller said.
Jones stuck to his initial description but acknowledged after a week he sees a different Miller than he did when practice started.
"I told him, ‘Now you’re not just running routes, you’re getting open,’" Jones said. "’You understand why you need the moves, why you need the ‘left, right, left, right’ at the top of routes. You understand how to get open now, you’re not relying on your pure talent of beating that guy. You’re relying on your technique.’"
Miller said the biggest change is how much more running is required of a receiver in practice. A device to measure such things revealed he ran close to four miles during one practice at receiver compared to only about a mile when he was playing quarterback.
Although Meyer expressed caution with Miller’s health, he pointed out contact was not an issue for Miller, who confirmed he had been full-go during a scrimmage Saturday and absorbed some punishment both as a receiver and as a runner out of the backfield.
"Yeah, I went up for a ball yesterday when J.T. was scrambling, and the guys hit me in my legs, and I came down on my upper body and it was pretty good," Miller said.