With his head coach engulfed by a sea of reporters 15 feet away, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller sat comfortably in his chair Thursday at the Chicago Hilton for Big Ten Media Days.
Settled in, Miller joked about his fashion sense, comparing shoes with a media member seated next to him. He talked about his unfair rating in EA Sports’ NCAA Football 14, feeling slighted by his lack of virtual speed. He showed off his Gold Pants—the charm Ohio State players receive for beating rival Michigan—situated around his neck, taking it out from under his dress shirt.
“If I were wearing a shirt like that, this would be a lot easier,” Miller joked, struggling to lift the charm out from under his tie, pointing at a nearby media member’s leisurely collar.
Although the past week has been littered with controversy and chaos for Ohio State following separate off-the-field incidents for four players, you wouldn't have known it by Miller’s relaxed demeanor. He gave the latest negative happenings, as well as the months ahead, some much-needed perspective.
As Urban Meyer was flooded with endless questions regarding his approach to player discipline and other non-football-related questions about his past, Miller’s focus was on the road ahead.
“I can’t wait to tear up our defense again,” Miller laughed, when asked if he’s ready for camp. “We’re going to really throw this thing around.”
Although Meyer is unquestionably the face of the program, Miller will be the deciding factor as to whether the Buckeyes successfully follow up their undefeated season. With a manageable schedule on the docket for 2013, there’s a feeling of “national championship or bust” brewing in Columbus.
With the talk of another undefeated season comes talk of the Heisman for Ohio State's starting quarterback. It's a spotlight Miller is not seeking to avoid. With that said, he’s not clamoring for it, either. When asked if he feels like the face of program, Miller offered up nervous laughter and said, “It just comes with being a quarterback.”
Zeroing in on the possibility of winning a Heisman, Miller again refused to accept the individuality of the award. “If it happens, it happens,” Miller said. “I want wins, and I hate close wins.”
To increase the likelihood of more blowout victories, Miller spent the offseason refining his mechanics as a passer. When other teams were preparing for their bowl games in December of last year, Miller was logging hours with quarterback guru George Whitfield in California.
The only bowl game he tuned into once Ohio State’s regular season was finished and the one-year postseason ban kicked in was the BCS National Championship Game.
“We could have been there,” Miller said, although he refused to dwell on it for long. And now, he no longer has to.
His progression during the offseason was on display during the team’s spring game. Miller looked like a more refined passer, with improved mechanics and vision evident in this brief football trailer for the upcoming season. Now, with the regular season lumbering closer, Miller will be asked to showcase this progression when it matters.
While the lingering effects of Ohio State’s recent offseason woes were the overwhelming storyline at Big Ten Media Days, the team’s most integral cog provided a breath of fresh air. His relaxed laugh and smile will mean little come September, although it's quite clear he's not caught up in the frenzy of it all.
Miller will now be tasked with becoming more of a leader, something that will come naturally. It’s easy to forget that Miller is only entering his junior season, because it certainly feels as if he’s been around much longer.
When asked about what advice Meyer has passed to him to deal with the controversy, the expectations and the pressure of the season ahead, Miller said the following, with a smile, of course.
“Just be you.”
*Adam Kramer is the lead college football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.