Wednesday, August 29, 2012

THE EVOLUTION OF BRAXTON MILLER; HOWARD BACK TO LONE STARTER

Braxton Miller
(TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer likes using excuses about as much as a 10-year old enjoys going to the dentist for a tooth extraction.

But when asked if Buckeyes' quarterback Braxton Miller's shaky season in 2011 could be attributed to being a true freshman, Meyer sort of reached for his metaphoric tooth elevator and forceps. I emphasize the words, "sort of."

"It's not an excuse, it's real," Meyer said. "You look at the evolution of Braxton Miller. He came into spring practice (last year) to be behind Terrelle Pryor. All of a sudden, bang, that's gone.

"Then you come to training camp and are like, 'am I really ready to do this?' He probably wouldn't tell you that, but just being around athletes my entire life, there's a little bit of angst as far as if he was prepared to do that.

"So I wouldn't say that's an excuse. That's absolutely real. True freshmen are hard to lead. I've never had a true freshman come in and lead a team. It's really hard to do."

Meyer certainly understands how important Miller is to the team's success — both now and in the near future. This is why the Buckeyes' coach has spent a good bit of his time with the talented, young signal caller.

And he's liking what he sees ...

"A lot. A lot," Meyer said, when asked how much time he spends with Miller. "I can read him pretty good now, when he likes something, when he doesn't like something. At some point, maybe not the first game, he'll actually game plan for us.

"We always have the opening script of plays we want to have run. At some point he'll be the guy making that script and giving great input. This is what I want because he's the one that has to pull the trigger."

Meyer has been down this road before — taking over a team with a young star quarterback, who struggled under the previous regime.

"Chris Leak," Meyer said, referring to his former quarterback at the University of Florida. "Chris Leak is a guy that was not asked to (lead) he just didn't very much. When we got down there, he had just finished up his sophomore year. He was a very good passer, but not a very good leader. Chris will tell you that. 

"He became a good leader and won a national championship."

Meyer admits he's sees a similarity with Miller.

"This is not throwing Braxton underneath the bus, it's just what I saw ... there wasn't a whole lot of leadership between him and the receivers (last year). Not a whole lot of relationship there," Meyer said.

It is quite apparent that Miller is extremely talented. There is a reason why every major college football team in the country was salivating at the thought of him running their offense coming out of high school. 

Meyer said he has seen the "evolution of Braxton Miller" go from a passive, non-leader, who had struggles picking up an offense as a freshman, to a player who is becoming more and more comfortable being the face of the franchise.

"Braxton has come a million miles," Meyer said. "I think he's very comfortable. Our goal is to make him not an athlete playing quarterback, but a quarterback that's very athletic.

"He came from a very good high school program (Huber Heights Wayne), so we're not starting off with a blank slate. Obviously he's been a major college quarterback for about 90 or 80 percent of his season last year.

"Once again, it's not a blank slate. I think he's fairly comfortable ...

"(Braxton's) a much different animal now."

HOWARD IS LONE STARTER AGAIN ... Coming out of the spring, Buckeyes senior cornerback Travis Howard was demoted in a way, going from starter last season to being listed as a Co-starter with rising sophomore Doran Grant.

However, Howard has worked his way back since the spring to become the lone starter on the opening game depth chart, something which has caught the eye of his new head coach.

"Travis Howard is a much better player than he was ... " Meyer said. "I think, sometimes in the transition (of new) coaching, you've got (new cornerbacks coach) Kerry Coombs in there that doesn't care, he's going to go hard.

"I always tell our players one of two things are going to happen. The new coach is going to change to work with you because you maybe don't like to get screamed at, pushed, whatever. Or you're going to change to the coaching style. The latter is usually going to happen. As a matter of fact, it's always going to happen.

"Travis has really done a nice job," Meyer continued. "I see him much improved. I really like coaching him right now. He's a lot of fun to be around."

Howard will be looked upon greatly this Saturday in the season opener when they host Miami University. The RedHawks were the 14th-ranked team in the nation last season in passing.