After Ohio State’s 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, Braxton Miller told BTN that he didn’t have a timeline on deciding if he would turn pro. Now, there’s a report that Miller will return for his senior season. And, it isn’t a shock. In fact, it’s a smart move.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Jan. 15. Ohio State will lose star linebacker Ryan Shazier, who declared for the draft officially on Saturday night. He’s great. But Miller’s loss would have been a much bigger blow to Ohio State.
Honestly, Miller seemingly doesn’t have much more to prove in college. He’s a two-time winner of the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football as the Big Ten MVP and widely is regarded as one of the top players in the nation.
He likely would have been a Heisman finalist this season had he not missed close to three games with a knee injury. Miller got to New York for the ceremony in 2012, finishing fifth in Heisman voting. By returning, Miller will be a top contender in 2014, along with reining Heisman winner Jameis Winston of Florida State.
But here’s the truth: Miller remains a work in progress. The storyline all season surrounding Miller was about his improvement as a passer. No doubt, he has made strides under the tutelage of coordinator Tom Herman. Miller’s completion percentage went from 58 in 2012 to 63 in 2013, as he showed better decision making and work from the pocket.
However, the 6-2, 215-pound Miller still has work to do. In fact, I wonder if he ever truly will be a legit NFL quarterback. To me, he’s still a quarterback whose special moreso because of his legs than his arm. We saw it in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson.
The Tigers stacked the line, daring Miller to win the game throwing the ball. The strategy worked. He hit 16-of-24 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and was held to 35 yards rushing on 18 carries (1.9 ypc).
At this stage, I think Miller is who he is and won’t ever really change: A quarterback who when push comes to shove and things are breaking down in the pocket will take off and run.
There’s nothing wrong with that, as we see myriad signal-callers in college excel with that style. But, it won’t fly in the NFL.
The NFL has had time to work with quarterbacks who have had similar skill sets as Miller. And, it simply doesn’t work with the big boys on Sunday. To excel in the NFL as a quarterback, who have to do your best work from the pocket as a passer. Running? It has to be out of emergency—not necessity.
To run seemingly is a strong instinct for Miller. Why not? It always has worked for him, and it’s what makes him a nightmare to defenses. And, it’s an instinct I don’t think he can shake.
Again, at this stage of a player’s career, I think the die has been cast. To expect radical change from a style standpoint is asking too much.
We will hear about how Miller wants to return to lead Ohio State to the Big Ten title and to make a national title run. We also will hear about how Miller wants to become a better passer. We heard the same thing from Tim Tebow when he opted to return for his senior season at Florida.
Florida talked about Tebow working more under center and not being the No. 1 running threat in the red zone. In the end, the UF offense never really changed during Tebow’s senior season. Why should it have? It had been wildly successful.
Coaches aren’t going to scrap a style/system that’s uber effective just so they can develop a player’s skills.
So, don’t be shocked if you hear about how Ohio State will tweak its offense to allow Miller to develop as a passer. But, when things get tight, and a play has to be made, count on Miller doing it with his feet—and not his arm.
It’s who he is. And, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m just glad we’ll get to enjoy him for one more season in the Big Ten.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.