Ohio State Football Spring Game 2013: Braxton Miller Impresses with Arm

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Ohio State Football Spring Game 2013: Braxton Miller Impresses with Arm
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Braxton Miller took the shotgun snap and faked a handoff to his running back before scanning the field. 

To his left, he had his tight end running wide open on a short and simple out route. Further down the field, Devin Smith was breaking hard toward the left sideline with the man in coverage 10 yards out of position and badly beaten.

Streaking past all of them was Evan Spencer, who had broken free from a safety that had either committed too much to an underneath route or bit too hard on the play action.

Miller stepped into the pocket with his body aimed at his target and released a perfectly-thrown ball past the defense. The spiral rocketed through the air and hit Spencer in stride with five yards of separation between him and the nearest defender.

That 49-yard connection was the first play of Ohio State's 2013 spring game, and already Miller's improvement in the passing game was as clear as the Cincinnati sky the Buckeyes were playing under.

It was the first of 16 passes Miller would complete on the day, an outing that concluded with 217 yards through the air to complement three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).

When asked where he had improved most over the course of spring practice, Miller responded with what all of us saw on the first play of the game.

“Placing the ball where it needed to be placed, especially hitting receivers in stride and back-shoulder throws,” Miller said, according to OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

Miller's 64 percent completion rate on Saturday was a mark he failed to reach in nine of Ohio State's 12 games last year, but his improvement throwing the ball wasn't just about better mechanics. The soon-to-be junior quarterback has displayed a greater knowledge of the offense throughout the spring, allowing him to make throws and find receivers he simply couldn't in 2012.

“I know the plays better, how they’ll develop and where the guys are going to be," Miller said. "It allows me to move around the pocket more confidently.”  

Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Braxton Miller was sensational last year as a sophomore, but he could be even better in 2013.
A more confident Miller could be lethal in 2013. As a sophomore last year, Miller set a single-season school record for total offense with 3,310 yards in just 12 games. Under Meyer's tutelage, Miller took one of the most anemic offenses in the country and turned it into of the country's most dangerous units.

All of that was done with Miller just scratching the surface of his potential. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman are pushing Miller hard to reach that potential, and his development over the course of the offseason and throughout spring practice was a step in the right direction.

Much of that was highlighted as Miller led his Scarlet team to a 31-14 victory over the Gray team on Saturday afternoon, but there were circumstances that may have tilted things in his favor.

For instance, his black no-contact jersey kept him from worrying about being planted by a pair of ruthless pass-rushers in Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington on any given play. Miller also benefited from a pass-heavy playbook that allowed him to throw the ball 25 times in less than two-and-a-half shortened quarters.

On the other hand, Miller was operating behind a makeshift offensive line with nearly half of his usual playmakers either on the other team or sidelined for the game. 

The biggest takeaway from Saturday's action, though, is that Ohio State will have an improved passer taking snaps this fall. And if Miller works as hard this summer as he did throughout the winter and spring, the Buckeyes could be on the verge of a very special season.

 

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

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