Wednesday, August 3, 2011

HUGE PRESSURE ON NEW QB MILLER, HOPEFULLY THE KID CAN HANDLE IT

Braxton Miller
TBT/Joe Stueve
COLUMBUS — The moment former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor announced that he was done playing football for the Buckeyes back in June, it seemed as if all of Columbus had turned its attention toward Braxton Miller so quickly and intently that a record number of whiplash cases were reported at the OSU Medical Center.

Seriously, you would've thought the incoming freshman quarterback was Charlize Theron attending a prison social. 

All who reside in Buckeye Nation are drooling over the prospects of Miller's greatness at Ohio State. Many are billing him as the heir apparent to Pryor. Some are saying he's a bigger, more athletically gifted Troy Smith. Others are proclaiming Miller as the next OSU Heisman Trophy winner.

"Buckeye Nation is a wonderful city to be in," Miller said Wednesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, before indicating to that same Nation that he will actually need time to learn his new role. "It's a long learning process. I'm taking it in real slow and I'm really not focused on (claiming the starting job) right now. 

"I'm just trying to get the plays down pat so when I do get in, I know what I'm doing."

Miller did admit that coming in early and being able to practice with the team during the spring has put him ahead in the process.

"It's a big advantage, especially learning the playbook," Miller said about coming in early. "It takes time, and it could probably take years to get everything down pat, but that was a huge advantage for me."

It is very possible that Miller will enter week one against Akron on Sept. 3 as the Buckeyes new starting signal caller, something that Buckeye Nation has been clamoring for ever since Pryor bolted town.

However, it seems as if fans of the Buckeyes are trying to forget about Pryor so incessantly that it has resulted in Miller being thrust into the role as the face of Ohio State football — a mug that has been marred by NCAA scars, inflicted most notably by Miller's predecessor. 

Fans are wanting Miller to be the savior of Ohio State football — the anti-Pryor, if you will.

But as much as people don't want to hear it, Pryor has been one of the most influential people to Miller since arriving on campus in January.

"He taught me a lot of things," Miller said of Pryor. "You know, he gave me a lot to think of ... Anything I needed he was right there to give me advice on."

As a player on the field, new head coach Luke Fickell stated that Miller has a lot of the qualities Pryor had when he came in as a freshman in 2008 and guided the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as a starter.

"I think he has a lot of similar qualities (to Pryor) in what he can do as a football player," Fickell said of Miller. "We're excited. Obviously, we had him through the spring. We're excited to see how he can continue to grow and how he can put our football team in the best position to win."

"Excitement" seems to be the popular adjective in Columbus when referring to Miller. But to what level is too much?

In 2008, when Pryor arrived in Columbus, the excitement over the western Pennsylvania recruit was so astronomical that most were wanting him to start from day one over Todd Boeckman, a senior who had guided the Buckeyes to a berth in the BCS championship game the previous season.

Pryor had a lot of the same expectations that Miller has coming into OSU, like dreams of leading the Buckeyes to multiple national titles and copping a couple more Heismans for the university's trophy case. 

These expectations were never realized, and it put so much pressure on Pryor that ... well ... you've seen the end result.

Now, I'm not implying that Miller is anything like Pryor. In fact, all indications have been that he's a very level-headed young man with great confidence in his abilities. But still, let's not put the spotlight on him so brightly that he gets third-degree burns.

"Right now it's going well and a lot faster than it was six months ago," Miller said. "I'm just taking it day by day."

That's great philosophy to follow, kid ...

A great philosophy for everyone to follow, actually.