Ohio State junior quarterback Braxton Miller has become the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year at 5-to-1 odds, according to one online betting site. But his ascent is only because the 2012 winner has put his eligibility in question.
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is being investigated by the NCAA for possibly getting a five-figure payday for signing autographs for a broker. That’s just the latest saga in a summer where the third-year sophomore has racked up almost as many negative headlines as he did head-turning plays last year.
Miller, on the other hand, has never had a hint of trouble. And when coach Urban Meyer was asked Tuesday if it makes a difference whether a team’s QB sets a positive tone, he replied: “I think it does. He’s a very humble player. Like, we focus on coaching football, which is really neat to have. I’m not aware of what all is going on with the other guy, but I like where our guy is right now — mentally, and his focus is really good.”
Manziel also made news by being kicked out of the Manning passing camp amid rumors of excessive drinking. He bragged in one national article about living it up as if he were part of the Beatles in their heyday. And then he griped on Twitter about not getting preferential treatment over a parking matter, saying that’s why he can’t wait to leave College Station and turn pro.
Miller’s tweets are sparse and generally innocuous. Here’s one from Aug. 2: “When ur going thru something hard & wonder where God is…remember the teacher is always quiet during a test!!!!!”
Miller said recently he’s more of a homebody than a partygoer and is careful how he carries himself in the spotlight.
“It’s how I was brought up,” he said. “I like to have fun, but I don’t get in trouble. I don’t need to be in the press and be talked about in a bad way. I’m careful who I hang out with, talk to and chill with. I’m just mellow.”
Miller has become a little less laid-back on the field, which is a good thing. Meyer, in his first report from preseason camp, singled him out for taking charge.
“If you ask me what I’m pleased with, I’m pleased with Braxton. He’s come a long way,” Meyer said. “I know it’s only the third day, but he had a really good day today.”
Asked what’s different, Meyer said: “Just his whole demeanor. His relationship with his receivers. I don’t want to say it was nonexistent (last year), but I didn’t see that. … Part of being a leader is leading by example, and he wasn’t leading by example because he really didn’t know what he was doing. I just see a much better presence by him.”
Also catching Meyer’s eye so far is celebrated freshman running back Dontre Wilson.
“He’s got something we didn’t have, and that’s electric speed,” Meyer said. “And he doesn’t care, he just goes hard. We just have to point him in the right direction.”
Not all is well in Buckeye Land, though. Meyer is still working through the Bradley Roby matter (nothing new to report on the cornerback’s misdemeanor assault charge) and noted how under-manned the team is at linebacker and offensive line past the projected starters.
“They don’t look Ohio State-ish,” Meyer said. “Other positions you can see three guys that are all good-looking players. Offensive line and linebacker are not where we need to be.”
Asked if the Buckeyes can shore them up, Meyer said: “With another recruiting class. We’re just going to have to hang in there this fall and not get guys hurt. We have depth issues there.”
Day three: Meyer pointed out that preseason camp hasn’t really been a strain on players yet. They’ll move from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to the no-frills Ackerman Road fields Aug. 9 and hold their first session of two-a-days then.
“Right now, this is all candy,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll talk to you in about a week, and people will be asleep on their mattresses right now (between practices). Camp is terrible. But we’re not in camp yet. This is just practice.”
Decker starting: The starting offensive line figures to be a strength. The only open spot is right tackle, and Taylor Decker, a sophomore from Vandalia, is running with the ones.
Some of the returnees have toned up, especially right guard Marcus Hall, a 6-foot-6, 315-pound senior.
“I told him the other day he needed to get a belt for his pants because they were falling off him,” line coach Ed Warinner said. “I didn’t really want to see what you see when his pants fall down. I was like, ‘Get a belt, man.’
“He’s slimmed down. He’s leaner — lower body fat and higher muscle. And he looks quicker.”