In the world of improvement on a year to year basis, last year should have been Braxton Miller’s last season in Columbus. With that being said he should have left with a Heisman Trophy and National Championship (ok at least a B1G Championship). After battling through all sorts of issues earlier in his career like, offensive line and lack of a supporting cast, everything seemed to jell last year. He shared the backfield with one of the toughest running backs in college (Carlos Hyde), he became a better passer (with the exception of not throwing to the TE enough) and really avoided sacks much better, and he owes some credit to the veteran offensive line he had in front of him. Just because he went forward with his progress in 2013, he need not take a break and work even harder for 2014.
When you evaluate Miller’s tape you will see he no longer takes a sack on one of every five or six attempts, but like so many mobile quarterbacks, he still takes too many. The big questions I would love to have answered is: How will Miller perform with a young offensive line and skill position players? How long did he have his shoulder injury? Where is he at in regards to rehabilitation of that shoulder? Who had the biggest impact on his improvement? I know I will probably never get the answers to those questions, but I’m still curious. It’s so much fun to speculate how well your favorite team/player is going to perform heading into the next season.
As it turns out, the NFL will have to wait on Braxton as in his final year of eligibility Miller returned for his senior season. Of course a lot of his supporting cast around him is all but gone. Hyde and top backup Jordan Hall are gone after combining for 2,057 yards (7.1 per carry) and 23 touchdowns; No. 1 receiver Corey Brown and his 72 percent catch rate are also out the door. So are four linemen who combined to start 135 games.
Obviously most of the players around Miller in 2014 will be former 4 and 5 star recruits with worlds of potential, from sophomore running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Warren Ball to the true freshman Curtis Samuel. Then we need to address big-play receiver Devin Smith, to seam-busting tight end Jeff Heuerman (please throw to him more) to countless highly touted freshman to include Johnnie “JD” Dixon and Jalin Marshall (true and redshirt) at the wide receiver position.
The only proven players are now limited to Miller, Smith, Heuerman, and left tackle Taylor Decker. Everybody else has to come in and compete. There will be many battles during camp for all this young speed to impress the coaches with what they can do and how fast they can do it. Don’t get me wrong, I think this young talent is going to surpass most expectations but it will take some patience, chemistry and a lot of hard work.
Miller is a great runner and a nearly perfect toy for Urban Meyer and the Buckeye offense, but the standard has been raised with the progress of last year, and he won’t be able to do it all by himself.
I realize it seems I look through my Ohio State Buckeye Glasses often, but that’s because I refuse to take them off!!