Ohio State coming around to Miller for Heisman

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer refused for weeks to even discuss

quarterback Braxton Miller’s Heisman Trophy chances.

Now Meyer, who coached a Heisman winner at Florida named Tim

Tebow, is joining a growing number of those who think the Buckeyes

sophomore might just be a viable contender.

”Do I believe he’s a Heisman candidate? I do,” Meyer said this

week. ”I didn’t say that before. But I do believe Braxton is a

Heisman candidate. He has to play much better. However, just from

sheer production for a team that’s 9-0, it puts him in that

category.”

It might not seem like a very bold statement, a coach simply

citing his player’s chances. After all, every college player in

America is technically a candidate.

But Meyer’s words also have given others at Ohio State tacit

approval to go ahead with a campaign to put Miller in the spotlight

more.

”By him agreeing that Braxton Miller is a Heisman Trophy

candidate, that’s important,” Ohio State sports information

director for football Jerry Emig said. ”From this point forward,

we’re going to let (Braxton’s) play on the field do most of his

talking. Don’t get me wrong, hype is good. But I also do think that

Ohio State’s tradition and history dictates that hype for our

players for these kinds of honors is earned and not created.”

Based on what he’s done on the field, Miller deserves to be in

the Heisman conversation.

Last week in a 35-23 win at Penn State, Miller became the third

Big Ten quarterback to top 1,000 yards rushing in a season. He is

11th in the country and first in the conference at 121 yards a

game. His passing numbers are nothing special. He has completed 57

percent of his passes for 1,527 yards and 12 touchdowns with six

interceptions.

A shifty runner, Miller is at his breathtaking best in the open

field. He has runs this season of 72, 67, 65, 55, 37 yards, three

of 33 yards, and another for 31 yards.

Individual stats are one thing, but Miller’s candidacy has

gotten another boost because he has been the linchpin of a team

with a 9-0 record and is ranked No. 6 in the nation.

So don’t be surprised if Ohio State flexes its PR muscles to try

to help Miller become the school’s eighth Heisman winner.

The university has never been shy about promoting players for

awards. That includes curmudgeonly coach Woody Hayes, a

larger-than-life figure who was fine with the hype machine helping

out Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner

(1974-75).

”Woody was never concerned about promoting a player, although

everyone would probably think he was diametrically opposed to it,”

said Marv Homan, who worked in Ohio State’s athletic communications

department from 1949-87. ”Woody knew Archie’s popularity with the

team, and he was not concerned with singling him out for attention.

He knew it would be the same Archie Griffin showing up every day at

practice and every Saturday for games.”

Back then, Ohio State would include a special set of statistics

highlighting Griffin’s gaudy accomplishments. Opposing coaches

raving about Griffin’s balance and cutting ability would also be a

part of the package.

The numbers – 5,589 career yards rushing, seasons of 1,577 and

1,695 yards as a junior and senior when the Buckeyes went 21-3 –

spoke volumes.

Now Miller is approaching the end of a long season. Ohio State

is banned from the postseason so he won’t have a bowl game to

further prove himself. But Heisman voting is completed in early

December, so that is a moot point.

Meyer coached Tebow at Florida when he won the Heisman in

2008.

Miller is only a sophomore, but so was Tebow, who was the first

sophomore to win the bronze statuette.

”I have a little experience at that award,” Meyer said.

”Braxton has to play much better. However, I believe he is a

candidate.”

If the first step is just being identified as a contender, then

Miller’s campaign is already well under way. Ohio State doesn’t

plan on putting his face on coffee mugs, T-shirts or mouse pads and

mailing them out to Heisman voters.

”I’m not certain that we need to have any kind of gimmick,”

Emig said. ”The whole goal of hype is name recognition. If you

plug in the terms `Braxton Miller’ and `Heisman’ in a search

engine, right now you’re going to generate 415,000 hits. I just did

that a short while ago.”

So it’s still basically up to Miller and how the rest of the

season goes. The Buckeyes play lowly Illinois at home on Saturday,

then have a bye week before playing at Wisconsin and closing the

season against rival Michigan. If Miller continues to play well,

and Ohio State continues to win, things will take care of

themselves.

Meanwhile, the guy who stands to be Miller’s campaign manager is

standing by, watching closely.

”If there’s something that needs to be done just to cement that

`this is the guy,”’ Emig said, ”We’ll be in a position to do

something to secure some top-of-mind recognition as we head into

that first week in December.”

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