COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Ohio State opens up fall camp on Sunday, the expectation is that Braxton Miller will take the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center with throwing mechanics much improved from a year ago. Should the Buckeyes junior quarterback do that, and exhibit similar skills throughout the 2013 season, he could walk away from this year with several trophies -- including the Manning Award, which named Miller to its preseason watch list on Friday.
Named after former Ole Miss star Archie Manning -- and his sons Peyton and Eli -- the Manning Award has been presented annually to college football's best quarterback since 2004. It is the only college quarterback award that takes postseason play into account in its balloting.
That shouldn't be a problem for Miller this season, after the Buckeyes went 12-0 in 2012, but were forced to endure a postseason ban stemming from NCAA violations. Ohio State opened up at No. 2 in yesterday's USA Today coaches poll, receiving three first-place votes and trailing reigning two-time national champion Alabama.
The Buckeyes' high preseason praise not only stems from last season's undefeated record, but the return of Miller, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. The Huber Heights, Ohio native set Ohio State's single season record for total offense in his sophomore year, compiling 3,310 yards and 28 total touchdowns in 2012.
Despite his lofty numbers, Miller struggled to be a consistent passer, completing just 58.3 percent of his attempts. Entering his second season in Urban Meyer's spread offense, Miller expects that number to improve drastically in the coming year.
"I feel so much more comfortable now," Miller said at Big Ten media days in Chicago last week. "There's one year under my belt in the same offense. I feel like everybody knows what they're doing."
Miller has also taken his improvement on his own shoulders, spending a portion of the offseason working out with noted quarterback specialist George Whitfield, Jr. Asked to compare his top player to where he was a year ago, Meyer described Miller as a "completely different guy."
"To be a functional throwing football team, you have to take control of the whole situation. (Miller) didn't do that a year ago. He wasn't experienced at it. If we are very productive throwing the football, it's because the quarterback took charge," Meyer said. "I haven't seen the ceiling on a wonderful kid. I hope it shows up soon, because when it does, it's going to be fun to watch."
Should Miller reach that potential, he'll be a serious threat to last year's Manning Award winner, Johnny Manziel, for this year's award -- as well as another trophy currently held by the Texas A&M signal-caller.