August 15, 2011

Miller continues progression in fall camp

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Braxton Miller enrolled at Ohio State under the assumption that he would get a year of training before being thrown to the wolves.

After a tumultuous offseason, which included the resignation of head coach Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor foregoing his remaining eligibility, the grooming of Miller has taken a back seat to a competition involving three other quarterbacks for the starting job.

The future has immediately become the present for Miller.

"It changed a lot," Miller said about his situation, "but at the same time, I still have to learn the system. I still have to take baby steps. I just take everything in and soak it up like a sponge."

With a week of fall practice now under his belt, learning that system and minimizing mistakes could lead Miller to the starting job, becoming just the second true freshman in school history to start the opener.

Art Schlichter accomplished that feat 33 years ago, showing just how taxing a proposition it can be.

The uber-talented Huber Heights, Ohio, native has an array of weapons at his disposal. Equipped with a strong arm, quick legs and elusive shiftiness, Miller beckons the days Troy Smith led the Scarlet and Gray to glory.

In a world of prima donnas, Miller, however, is not all-consumed with his status in line. He is content - for the moment - with taking snaps behind senior Joe Bauserman, redshirt sophomore Kenny Guiton and redshirt freshman Taylor Graham.

"We're trying to evaluate them as a whole, see what they do," first-year head coach Luke Fickell said of the quarterbacks. "See what our program needs, what our offense needs, and then figure out who's the best fit for what we do."

Despite the competition, the four quarterbacks motivate one another throughout practice and have developed a friendship away from the field.

"I think we've done well," Graham said. "We're really coming together as a unit. I think I fit in well with the guys here, and I'm really having fun."

Miller arrived on campus in January, soaking in valuable knowledge during spring practice and familiarizing himself with college. He got his feet wet in the spring game, completing 7-of-12 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown, while running for 19 yards on four carries. He also put on 15 pounds of muscle. That being said, Miller said he still struggles at times with grasping a playbook that could double as a New York City telephone directory.

"I had a couple months before the rest of the freshmen were here," Miller said, "but I play a different position, so I have to learn everything and it takes more time. I just need to learn more of the playbook."

Miller said he learns around four plays each day before studying more of the playbook at the hotel. His roommate, senior wide receiver DeVier Posey, helps him with the process.

Said Miller: "DeVier has been a big help. He teaches me a lot. We go over the playbook every night and talk about what went wrong in practice that day."

Thus far, Miller has shown flashes of why he was the most sought-after prospect in the state. He also looks lost at times, though, and been panicked when the first or second option isn't open. Those traits are to be expected in even the best freshmen.

In limited reps with the first team offense, Miller has taken value in the snaps and developed a repertoire with fellow freshman Devin Smith, a wide receiver from Massillon. The relationship is not dissimilar from the one built by Pryor and Posey during their freshman season.

"I like it," Miller said about going against the first team. "It helps me out, makes my drops faster and my reads faster. I'm (becoming) more comfortable calling the plays and making my reads before I pass."

Regardless of who Fickell tabs as the starter, he faces a conundrum of sorts with so much inexperience at the position. Pryor took nearly every significant snap the past three seasons and, despite poor off-field judgment, produced Herculean results on the field.

"They're all young in their own way, meaning they haven't taken a whole lot of snaps in front of 106,000 (people)," Fickell said. "So, to me, it's most important who fits what our team does best and who can jell into that. Obviously, we have to do what they do well, but it's important that they can do what our team does well, too."

Miller has admitted that the task of being quarterback is not for everyone and a huge mental grind. He rests easy, though, relishing the opportunity to lead the Buckeyes.

"I'm sleeping well every night," Miller said. "I come out here and compete and have a good time."



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