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July 17, 2013

Miller on O'Brien watch list

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Braxton Miller found himself on the preseason watch list for the Davey O'Brien Trophy on Wednesday, it didn't come to the surprise of many. After all, the Ohio State signal-caller is coming off of a 2012 campaign that saw him break his school's single season record for total offense with 3,310 yards to his credit while scoring 28 touchdowns.

And although the Buckeyes coaching staff doesn't put much stock into awards, let alone watch lists for them, seeing Miller walk away from 2013 with the trophy that goes to college football's top quarterback would speak volumes about the Huber Heights, Ohio native's development.

Because while Miller's sophomore numbers may have been good enough to land him fifth in Heisman Trophy voting -- and Ohio State to a 12-0 record -- one of his statistics stood out for the wrong reason: 58.3 percent. That's how many of Miller's 254 pass attempts he completed last year, a rather pedestrian number for a player considered to be one of college football's top quarterbacks.

"His quarterback development is behind a little bit," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer admitted this offseason. "As a player, it's not."

While Miller didn't walk away with last season's O'Brien Award, he did earn a number of accolades, including the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year award and The Chicago Tribune's Silver Football. Most of Miller's accomplishments, however, came as a result of his running ability, which allowed him to rack up 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground last season.

This season, both Miller and his coaches are hoping that more of that production will come through the air, and with the start of fall camp nearly two weeks away, all indications are that that will be the case.

"Last year, I was kind of second-guessing myself because I wasn't playing as well," Miller said. "This year I'm going to be much better at the plays and throwing guys open."

For his part, Miller spent a portion of his offseason working out with noted quarterback specialist George Whitfield, Jr., who is known for his work with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Newton, Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel, and Tajh Boyd. Millers' improvement was apparent in the Buckeyes spring game in April, when he completed 16 of his 25 pass attempts for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

"I just know how the plays develop and where the players are going to be," Miller said of his advanced showing. "I just move around the pocket knowing where the guys are going to be."

Performing well in an Ohio State exhibition is one thing, but it's that kind of consistency in the passing game that the Buckeyes coaches are hoping to get from Miller when the team opens the season on Aug. 31 against Buffalo. OSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman is well aware of the natural ability that his star player possesses, but also said that Miller still has untapped potential.

"He can be an 11," Herman said when asked to rank where Miller stands on a scale between 1-10. "He can run real fast and throw real hard. Those are things that are really hard to coach, last time I checked. Those are really, really good things to have."

Should he reach that potential that Herman alluded to, the O'Brien Award might not be the only trophy that he walks away with in 2013.



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