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
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
”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
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
”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 –
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
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
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
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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