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Monday, April 2, 2012
Ohio State's Miller brushes up on spread

By Adam Rittenberg

Braxton Miller isn't taking a complete intro course this spring at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. But he's not merely taking a refresher, either.

Miller knows a thing or two about the spread offense Ohio State is installing under new coach Urban Meyer. He ran a similar system as a standout quarterback at Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio. And even though he came to Ohio State to play in a different system under previous coach Jim Tressel, Miller has been billed by just about everyone as a perfect fit for the spread.

Miller
QB Braxton Miller will likely run fewer rushing plays in 2012 under Urban Meyer's spread offense.
They might be right, but it still takes work and time to absorb the system and effectively run it at the college level.

"You've got to crawl before you walk," Miller told ESPN.com on Saturday.

Miller is still in the crawling phase as he goes through his first spring session with the new offense and the new coaching staff.

"Still got a long way to go," offensive coordinator Tom Herman told reporters after Saturday's workout. "He makes mistakes just like everybody else in a brand-new system."

Asked what stands out about Ohio State's new offense, Miller first talked about the pace. The days of 10-play, six-minute drives ending in field goals are likely over in Columbus.

The Buckeyes will go no-huddle and play at an accelerated tempo, using hand signals from the sideline to relay plays. Miller will have to check the backside defensive end on zone-read plays, shift protections and operate in a system based on pace and motion, similar to what he did in high school. But the terminology is different, and so are the demands from the coaches.

"It's much faster and more explosive," Miller said of the offense. "I love it, man. I love it."

Ohio State finished 107th nationally in total offense last season, and while its scoring numbers weren't quite as bad, only five teams averaged fewer passing yards than the Buckeyes, two of them service academies (Army and Navy). Miller earned Big Ten freshman of the year honors, started 10 games at quarterback and displayed dynamic running skills, but he only attempted 157 passes, the second-fewest among Big Ten starters.

Meyer's hiring galvanized Ohio State fans, but it's his offense that immediately caught Miller's attention.

"I was pretty familiar with the system he ran, so I was real excited about it," Miller said. "He's got a lot of knowledge. I’m learning from him every day."

Developing Miller as a passer is a chief priority for both Meyer and Herman this spring. Miller finished his freshman season on a good note, recording 32 of 48 passes for 397 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in his final two games.

But passing opportunities were scarce in Ohio State's ultra-conservative scheme, and like many athletic younger quarterbacks, Miller, who last fall led the team with 715 rush yards, relied on his running skills too much at times.

"I can’t get bundled up and so rattled up when somebody is rushing," he said. "I have to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball."

His challenge this spring is two-fold. He must learn the offense while better establishing himself as a leader on the field.

"It was a blessing," he said of playing so much in 2011. "The difference is playing with 22-, 23-year-old guys, and being a freshman. As the leader, they're looking at you. That’s what I’m working on going into this year. I feel more comfortable with what I'm doing right now. There isn’t that much pressure so far, so I’m going in every day, telling the guys, 'Let’s go. Let’s work hard today.'"