Braxton Miller has gotten off to an explosive start this season for the Ohio State Buckeyes. So saying that the team should limit how many times the sophomore quarterback carries the ball may sound a little odd. Miller has excelled so far at running coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense, but that may be short lived if the Buckeyes don’t reduce the number of hits he is taking.
Ohio State indicated that the 27 carries Miller had on Saturday in a victory against the Central Florida Knights looks to be a school record for a quarterback. He already has 44 rushing attempts in just two games, which is a lot of hits for your starting quarterback to be taking. Miller stands at 6-foot-2 and is 220 pounds, which isn’t small by any means, but not necessarily big by quarterback standards. With every hit he takes it will begin to wear him down throughout the season, and obviously can increase the chances of him suffering a serious injury.
The interesting thing for the Buckeyes is that they aren’t bowl eligible this season. This could be a great time to develop Miller as more of a passer from the pocket. Of course wins matter, but building the team for a push next season at a potential national championship may be more important. It’s not like Miller doesn’t have the ability to throw. In just over a season at Ohio State he has thrown 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions, with a quarterback rating of 140.3. Where he does need to improve, however, is completion percentage. He has a career mark of just 57.1%, and that will need to get much better for Meyer to really turn him loose.
Part of the reason Ohio State has had to run the ball so much so far in 2012, is their injuries at running back. The team will be without three scholarship running backs going into this weekend’s clash with the California Golden Bears. Carlos Hyde sprained his knee in last week’s game, Jordan Hall looked to be the starter going into the season, but tore a tendon in his foot after stepping on some glass in June, and freshman Warren Ball will be redshirted this season after having foot surgery.
Taking a lot of the pounding off of Miller could also really help his overall development. If you think of the way Meyer used Tim Tebow at Florida, there are certainly some similarities with Miller. Tebow carried the ball a ton as well, but when he got to the NFL he was just a raw athlete instead of a polished quarterback. Forcing Miller to work a little more inside the confines of the pocket, should help him breakdown defenses a lot better and improve the Buckeyes passing game.
Now at the end of day Meyer isn’t going to be concerned about Miller’s performance at the next level. He is going to do whatever it takes to win football games right now. And if that means Miller has to carry the workload in the backfield then so be it. It also isn’t easy to change the mentality of someone with the athleticism of Miller. His first instinct is to simply take off and use his legs when his first option isn’t there.
For the Buckeyes, however, it may make sense to use a little forward thinking. I know Miller is fast, but the college football season is a marathon, not a sprint.