Ohio State coach Urban Meyer saw something in the naturally laid-back Braxton Miller that the junior quarterback couldn’t see in himself.
The Wayne graduate has been responding to Meyer’s prodding to become more of a vocal leader, and it paid off with Miller being named a captain this season — an honor he didn’t see coming.
“Those are big shoes to fill, but I’m ready to take charge. … I’ve come a long way since my freshman year,” he said.
Asked how he would have reacted if he had been told last season he would become a captain, Miller replied: “I would have been surprised because I really wasn’t ready for that position at the time. Coach Meyer always talks about (leadership), and I got better at that last year and throughout the whole offseason. I’m proud to be where I’m at right now.”
Miller was picked in a player vote to become one of eight captains, joining offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley, safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant, receiver Corey “Philly” Brown, linebacker Ryan Shazier and back-up QB Kenny Guiton .
Meyer said Mewhort had the most votes and Barnett, a Northmont grad, the second-most. But the tally was so close that Meyer didn’t want to eliminate any of the choices. He’ll select a handful from the group each week to be game captains.
“I understand you can’t have eight captains,” he said. “I’m going to ‘game-captain’ it and see at the end of the year who does the best job. If they all do a great job, we’ll be the first eight-captain unit probably in history.”
The Buckeyes are two days away from opening their season, and Meyer can tell the kickoff is getting close because he’s starting to feel the jitters.
“Every Friday night is a tough night to sleep. You just want to put a good product out there,” he said.
Miller, of course, will have a lot to do with that. He set an OSU record for total offense with 3,310 yards rushing and passing. And while he was named the Big Ten offensive player of the year, that’s still a relatively meager total compared to what other top returning college quarterbacks registered in 2012.
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner, set an SEC record with 5,116 yards. Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (4,953), Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (4,410), Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (3,890) and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater (3,744) were among many who surpassed Miller’s production.
The Buckeyes also gave up 29 sacks last season, the 10th most in the Big Ten and a startling total given Miller’s athletic ability.
But Meyer believes that will change.
“Fundamentally, he’s a much different player than he was at this time a year ago,” he said. “(He’s got) pocket presence, which includes when it breaks down, getting plus yardage. He was not a very good scrambler. Most of his yards last year were on design quarterback runs and maybe a play that got screwed up. But he’s much improved.”
When asked where Miller has developed most since last year, quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said: “Confidence in himself and in what he’s doing.”
Herman said once Miller had faith in himself to handle the cerebral part of the position, he could concentrate on honing his fundamentals and mechanics.
“We always knew it was there,” Herman said. “We had seen the guy last year make some really, really sound, fundamental plays where he looked like a million bucks. The problem is, I don’t know that he was ever truly confident in himself and in the big picture of what he was supposed to do and how he was supposed to do it, so we didn’t see those near as much.
“But he’s got tunnel vision, so to speak, in terms of, ‘I know what I’m supposed to do, I’m getting it done and now my mechanics and my fundamentals can flourish a little bit.’ “
Miller has been oozing confidence in the preseason. He’s been lobbying to throw as many as 30 passes a game.
Asked if he really believes he’ll unleash that many, he joked, “I hope so. If not, I’ll call my own plays to get to 30.”
DT out: Tommy Schutt, a 6-foot-1, 300-pound sophomore defensive lineman, had surgery Sunday for a fractured foot and will be out until midseason. He was expected to contend for a starting spot. The Buckeyes moved offensive lineman Chase Farris to that position, and Meyer liked the results in practice.
“He’ll play,” the coach said. “I was panicky a little bit. But not now.”
Who: Ohio State vs. Buffalo
Where: Ohio Stadium
When: noon, Saturday
TV/Radio: ESPN2/WING-AM (1410)