Typically, the Buckeyes have made do with the NFL model of quarterback management: have one prize horse who gets the most attention, followed by a competent backup or two for those rainy day scenarios. The approach looks good on paper, and works in the NFL because the pool of potential superstar QBs from which the NFL draws is rather shallow.
College football has generally had the inverse problem. Predicated on seniority, there’s always a good chance that the prize horse (Zwick, Boeckman, Bauserman) will not have an athletic advantage over his backup (Smith, Pryor, Miller). High school stars may fizzle out, while average players blossom into excellent leaders.
Having a full stable of high-potential quarterbacks is a rarity for any college football team, let alone Ohio State. And yet, this is the luxurious position OSU is in for the 2013 season.
None of note. (Unless you count Braxton’s Fauxhawk.)
Last Year’s Performance:
In 2012, OSU was ranked 117th nationally in passing attempts (good enough for Dead. Last. in the B1G). Braxton Miller’s 48.7% accuracy on 3rd-downs was lowest among B1G quarterbacks.
In addition, Meyer told the Toledo Blade that he deliberately held the Buckeye offense to a scaled-back playbook in 2012. Therefore, Braxton had to run a conservative attack, passing for just over 2000 yards with 15 TDs and 6 INTs.
And yet, Braxton Miller was Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and the OSU offense overwhelmed opponents with 37.2 points per game on average. Doesn’t that seem odd?
Those who watched Braxton blossom last year know why. OSU went 12-0 and had the 21st ranked offense in FBS because he added another 1300 yards and 13 TDs on the ground.
Expectations for 2013:
The last time expectations were this high for quarterback performance was in 1998, when Joe “the Iceman” Germaine returned for his last year along with OSU greats David Boston and Dee Miller. That team led the nation in most offensive categories all season long – and had it not been for an unfortunately timed fumble against the Spartans, that OSU team would likely have been the first national champion of the BCS era.
Whether it’s a fair expectation or not, college football fans and pundits alike expect nothing less from OSU in 2013. The rushing ability that Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton bring to the table has obviously remained unchanged. The big difference this season is that the OSU QB will be surrounded with experienced weapons – healthy running backs, slot receivers, veteran wide receivers (that aren’t under suspension!), great tight ends, and Scary Talented Unknown Freshmen.
(Example of Scary Talented Unknown Freshman)
The question remains: Will Miller’s 58.3% completion percentage be good enough to leverage all those weapons? If you ask the experts… yes, affirmative, absolutely, positively, aye, YES. What experts, you ask? How about the one who’s worked with Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Johnny Manziel?
“Braxton has one of the biggest arms in college football,” Whitfield said. “I know people see his speed and his playmaking ability. But I am talking about, he’s got rare, rare arm talent.”
This is completely consistent with the assessment made by other observers:
Judging from practice today, Braxton Miller is improved as a passer, surrounded by quick WR/RBs. OSU presents matchup nightmares
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) August 19, 2013
Urban Meyer told the Columbus Dispatch:
“I love Braxton Miller. Him and Tom Herman have something really special going right now. You can see it on the field. You can see his maturity.
Combined with that athletic talent is a brand new offense that will be unveiled in a couple of weeks. Meyer has indicated that he plans to abandon last year’s training wheels and institute a true spread attack. The scaled-back playbook has been shredded. In regards to a recent practice session using the new offensive approach, Meyer said:
“We completed more balls in a third-down scrimmage scenario in a 10-minute, 16-play deal than maybe we did all of last year. And a lot of that had to do with [Miller]. He’s better, he’s more comfortable, he understands things, he’s more patient.”
The implication is, of course, that Braxton will not be running as much this season. This is an important point to note for those who will be comparing his stats from 2012 – if your baseline includes his performance as the team’s primary rusher, you’re going to be disappointed. Meyer wants RBs and H-backs rushing whenever possible. It’s entirely possible that Braxton has a more successful season than last, yet ends up responsible for fewer touchdowns overall.
Backing up Miller, of course is “Smooth Jazz” Guiton, who has always had the ability to back up Miller on an athletic level. However, as a senior, Guiton possesses the maturity and expertise in the program most needed to step in at a moment’s notice with as little of an effect on the offense as possible.
QBs battling for the #3 spot are Cardale Jones and JT Barrett. Technically, the #3 spot belongs to Jones – he had it last year – but he made a large mistake last year that didn’t endear him to the coaching staff.
Barrett, on the other hand, is a high school phenom who is impressing coaches with his leadership. He enrolled at Ohio State early, and as a young unknown, happened to be in the room when Dontre Wilson and James Clark came on their official visits. The story has become OSU coaches’ lore, but it goes like this: When Wilson and Clark came by, he interrupted the coaches – again, he had only been in the program a few weeks at that point and interrupted them – and gave the recruits a lecture straight out of a Hollywood movie. Tom Herman:
“He goes on for 5 or 10 minutes on why he chose this place over others and he’s going on about winning multiple championships, what an Ohio State degree can do for you, and playing for this coach and school… For me to witness that, it got me choked up a little bit, because you can’t teach that.”
With the fact that Guiton will be leaving this season, along the extreme likelihood that Braxton will as well, Meyer has one season to get either Jones or Barrett ready for prime time in 2014. Time will tell.
But 2013 will be the Braxton show. If Miller can stay healthy, and if he has progressed as much as the coaches and pundits have indicated, there should be no question that he won’t repeat or surpass the bar of success he set for himself last year.