Ohio State coaches have been exhorting quarterback Braxton Miller to become more of a vocal leader, to bring an infectious energy to the field as if it were another piece of equipment.
But he’s known for his low-key personality, and that does have its advantages. Not only does it keep him from getting too ruffled when things aren’t going well, it also helps him from getting too high with all the recognition being heaped on him.
The junior from Wayne High School made the cover of Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago, but his coaches aren’t afraid of him suddenly thinking he’s mastered his position or buckling under the heightened expectations that come with being in the national spotlight.
“I don’t think he’s even read the article,” OSU quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said. “I don’t know if much of that gets to him, which is good.
“He’s even-keeled. Would I like to see him a little more intense positively? Yes. But I think because of his laid-back, even-keeled nature, that stuff really isn’t that big a deal.
“We talked about it. He’s good. He doesn’t care what you (in the media) or the readers or anyone thinks. He just wants to help his team win and be as good as he can be.”
Miller already has become quite good for the Buckeyes. He set a program record for total offense last season (combined yards rushing and passing), was named Big Ten player of the year and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
But he has some distance to go before he reaches his ceiling.
“He did well last year. I just wish he didn’t have to play that first year. He wasn’t ready to play,” said coach Urban Meyer, referring to the NCAA scandal that sent quarterback Terrelle Pryor scurrying for the pros after his junior year and forcing Miller to play as a true freshman.
“He still was the Big Ten freshman of the year. That just tells you how talented he was. But his quarterback development is behind a little bit. As a player, it’s not.”
Miller has put much work into his fundamentals in the offseason. His family even paid for him to spend some time with quarterback guru George Whitfield in Los Angeles, and Miller said the difference in him compared to last year is “night and day.”
He added: “Sometimes I’d read the coverage too fast, and I’d get jittery. My feet moved out of place, and the ball was just sailing.
“I think about that every time I step on the field. I know why the ball sails on me now. I worked on that in the offseason and in L.A. I know what’s going on if I throw a bad ball.”
Herman has seen marked improvement. But Meyer and his staff are unbending in their high standards, and they see a cavern between Miller’s performance and potential.
Asked to grade the player, Herman said: “If he was a one at this time last year and a four at the end of the season, he’s at six right now. He can be an 11 on a scale of 1-10. … But you have to be careful how much you dump on a kid because you do more harm than good in stunting that growth.”
Miller already is a 10 in some areas.
“He can run real fast and throw real hard,” Herman said. “Those are things that are really hard to coach, last time I checked. Those are really, really good things to have.
“The physical tools are all there — from his release to throwing the ball to velocity to running ability. Those things are off the charts. Now, we’ve got to catch the entire package up with that in terms of being a cerebral quarterback, a fundamentally sound quarterback, being a manager of the game, being a leader out there. Once he does that — and he’s done a great job so far — the sky is the limit.”