Believe it or not, quarterback Braxton Miller is now entering his third season with the Ohio State Buckeyes. I know—time flies when you aren't paying attention. He has shown he is without question the most talented player on the entire Ohio State roster, but he still has the most to prove once the team enters spring practice beginning on March 5.
Why does a quarterback that led his team in passing and rushing last year have to continue to prove himself?
It's simple. He is the guy that is going to lead the Buckeyes to a possible national championship next season. One of the main reasons the team finished last year with an undefeated record, Miller is the leader of the team and will need to once again play well if Ohio State stands a shot.
We could talk about the young defense, or maybe another offensive player that needs to step his game up, but don't kid yourself—this team runs through Miller and will continue to sink or float with him under center.
Truthfully, Miller can continue to improve his game and seems to be holding back on his overall talent level. He has the college football world at his feet, but has not taken advantage of it quite yet. He continues to leave you wanting more, and what's fascinating about the whole experience is that he has the upside to provide that something extra.
Miller could still improve his completion percentage that was only 58 percent last year. In fact, he wasn't much of a passer at all last season, throwing for only 15 touchdowns. There were also only five games in which he had more than 20 pass attempts. His 169.9 passing yards per game was ranked 90th in all of college football, and he also managed to throw six interceptions in limited pass attempts.
His touch can improve when throwing the football. He still forces the ball at times and he relies way too much on his pure athletic ability to get the job done. Miller needs to improve his mechanics, footwork and advance as an overall passer if the Buckeyes are going to take that next step, and if he is going to be taken seriously as an NFL prospect.
Another thing that Miller must improve on is resetting his feet after avoiding pressure. Sure, he can make linebackers and defensive linemen miss in the backfield all day long, but he must be able to get set once again. This will allow him to make a much more accurate pass. It's also why Miller has spent a lot of the offseason working with quarterback coach George Whitfield. While other college players are enjoying the offseason by playing video games and sitting court side at NBA games, Miller knows he still has things to work on.
Whitfield has worked with names such as Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Donovan McNabb and even the most recent Heisman winner in Johnny Manziel. All have turned out to have productive careers and Miller could soon be next on the list if he is able to maximize on some of the pointers that the quarterback guru has given to him.
Miller told Andrew Holleran of TheLantern.com that the key thing Whitfield has pointed out is for him to remain calm under pressure and make sure he is doing everything right from a mechanics standpoint.
“You got to keep your composure and just keep your mind on your mechanics and it gets you through it,” Miller said. “I’m just getting comfortable right now.”
Just now getting comfortable with the whole process may be perfect timing for both Miller and this offense. The downfall last year was that there simply weren't enough playmakers around Miller for him to completely thrive under Urban Meyer and the spread offense. The running back depth is now deeper than ever and healthy, four of the five offensive linemen return and all of the starting receivers return as well.
Meyer also was able to add playmakers at the receiver position with 2013 recruits in Corey Smith, James Clark and Jalin Marshall—guys who will enroll in the fall and have a chance to compete for immediate playing time.
The excuses come to an end now. Miller is now an upperclassman, meaning the training wheels are off and the big boy pants are being worn. He has spent a year in the spread offense, has a full offseason to work with Meyer and has better skill players around him that will help him take his game to the next level. We know what he is capable of doing with his legs, but becoming more consistent throwing the ball is what will really propel him toward becoming the top quarterback in college football.
Right now, Miller seems to be a quarterback that is just scratching the surface with his potential. The 2013 season will be his time to shine, throwing himself in legitimate Heisman discussions and becoming someone that NFL scouts are seriously looking at.
He may have the biggest name on the team, but he still has a lot he can prove to himself, teammates and the rest of the college football world.
It all starts in spring practice. We'll be watching.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.