QB Miller shows flashes
Meyer believes sophomore can be better passer with better footwork
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- One way or another, the feet of Braxton Miller are going to be under the microscope.
As a rusher, blinding speed and precise cuts sent the Ohio State quarterback on his way to a school rushing record for the position. His fancy footwork was hard to ignore as he juked and stutter-stepped down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.
The Buckeyes don't have doubts about his arm strength or improvements in the sophomore's decision-making and accuracy as he prepares for his second test of the season on Saturday at home against Central Florida. But when passes fall incomplete, more often than not the first place Ohio State is going to look is to the ground and those fleet feet.
"When he has a nice stroke, he's as good a passer as I've ever seen," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "When a guy pops open, he wants to get it there so fast, his fundamentals kind of get away from him. One time he scrambled out of the pocket instead of hanging in there with a little option route we ran to [Corey] 'Philly' Brown, so he's going through some growing pains.
"We have to get him through those growing pains real fast. We expect more out of our quarterback."
Miller still gave the offense plenty in his first start in the new spread offense, shredding Miami (Ohio) both on the ground and through the air on the way to 368 combined yards with three touchdowns. But almost as soon as the game was over, Meyer was pointing to a completion percentage that wasn't quite where he wanted it after Miller hit on 14 of his 24 attempts before leaving midway through the third quarter.
Miller also appeared to have some issues with his hands, as he struggled at times to grip the football, and his receivers didn't do him any favors by dropping a couple of throws that should have been easy completions. But when a ball veers off target or winds up on the ground, the solution might simply be to slow down in the pocket the same things that make him dangerous when he turns them loose on the perimeter.
"I could do better," Miller said. "I would just say I think I was going too fast. I'm making my reads too fast instead of just being calm.
"There's just a lot of improvement I've got to do. I have to get better for Central Florida, and that's what I'm going to do."
A sharper outing might be a necessity against a defense that figures to pose much more of a threat to the Buckeyes and provide a better evaluation of the transition to Meyer's new system.
The returns were encouraging for Ohio State in the opener regardless of the opponent, especially after Miller settled in following a 1-of-7 start in the first quarter, rattling off 13 completions before cramps and a lopsided score kept him on the sideline down the stretch. But a UCF team that finished No. 9 in the nation in total defense last season might make it a bit tougher for Miller to get his feet under him -- no matter how he's using them.
"He'll get better," Meyer said. "I think you saw a couple glimpses of how accurate a passer he could be once we gave him time and he settles in a little bit."
That's a process that literally starts from the ground up.