There has been a lot of talk about Braxton Miller during the offseason. Some consider him one of the best quarterbacks in the country and think he is a Heisman candidate, while others disagree, saying he has yet to reach that level.
Whether you believe in the Ohio State quarterback or not, there's no question that there are parts of Miller's game that need work. That's why he spent a lot of time with quarterback coach George Whitfield during the offseason.
But there's also no question that with improvement in a couple of key areas Miller could become an elite quarterback this fall.
Become an Actual Quarterback
Sounds simple, huh?
When most people think about quarterbacks, they think about them throwing the football. But when you search for videos on Miller, you will find that the majority have to do with him running the football. There is no doubt that his legs and athleticism are what has helped put him on the map, but if he wants to take that next step, he must become more of a passer.
Miller averaged 21.2 pass attempts a game last season. In case you are wondering, that is dead last among quarterbacks who played at least 75 percent of a team's plays in 2012. Who would have ever thought that a quarterback the natural ability of Miller would have fewer pass attempts a game than a first-year starter in Everett Golson, a run-first QB in Taylor Martinez and an interception machine in Dayne Crist?
His 254 pass attempts were sixth in the Big Ten and 95th in the country. Some would say this has to do with the system that Urban Meyer runs, as his spread offense is designed for an athletic quarterback to use his legs more. This is true, but the 254 throws were far fewer than Tim Tebow had during the three years he started at Florida in the same system.
This shouldn't be the case, as Miller is clearly the better passer when you compare the two. Shoot, even Meyer himself had no problem announcing to the world that Miller was the better quarterback than the great Tebow. When it comes to improving his game, the Ohio State quarterback just needs to trust himself a little more and let his arm do a lot more of the talking.
Become Consistent on the Short-to-Intermediate Throws
When I say throw the ball more, Miller should be a little more selective with where he throws it.
Watching the highlight video from a year ago, it has become clear that the playbook for Miller was the same throughout the season. If it wasn't Miller taking off with his legs, he was sitting back in the pocket and letting the ball fly for 30-plus yards. He wasn't the most consistent short-yardage passer, making it an area that needs improvement.
Of his 148 completions last year, 36 were for 15 or more yards and 19 were for 25 or more yards. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes and almost 25 percent of those completions produced more than 15 yards. He only had nine passing attempts when facing situations of 3rd-and-3 or less, and nearly every red-zone touchdown of his was a designed run. He must use shorter routes and the middle of the field more.
At times, it seems Miller trusts his arm too much, the same way he believes in his athleticism. This has been the case with Miller since his freshman season, as he often looks downfield, trying for the home run.
Take the 2011 Michigan game, for example. You can see two open wide receivers (circled) who would have easily picked up the first down and kept the chains moving. But Miller isn't even looking in that direction and instead forces a pass for a chance at the bigger gain.
Buckeyes fans don't need to be reminded what happened on the play. It resulted in a tipped interception and Michigan ended up winning its first game against the Buckeyes in seven years.
Miller is constantly looking for the big play against man coverage, and he has little problem airing it out by throwing the ball up for grabs. Sometimes it is best to take what the defense gives you and move the chains by going for the easier throw. Sure, Miller has proved he has the arm strength to make big plays in the passing game, but he has to learn to go with the safer throw when it is available.
This would not only limit his interception total (10 in two years), but would also make him that much more dangerous, as it gives the defense something else to worry about. Miller has shown he is a playmaker with his legs and that he can put the ball downfield, now it is time for him to complete more of the underneath throws. Doing his would allow him to reach elite status in 2013.