Ohio State quarterback, Braxton Miller burst onto the national scene as a sophomore in 2012 and was a candidate to win the Heisman trophy, but ultimately fell short despite leading the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record.
Entering his third season as the starting quarterback and his second year under the watchful eye of head coach Urban Meyer, the Huber Heights, Oh native is poised to breakthrough and can win the Heisman if he can improve in one key area.
Miller is perhaps the best running quarterback in the nation along with reigning Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, but the reason why Manziel took home the stiff-armed bronze statue and Miller didn’t is that Miller threw for nine fewer touchdowns and 1,667 fewer yards than Manziel.
For Miller to challenge Manziel and the other top quarterbacks in the nation for the Heisman, he must improve on the 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns he threw for last year while maintaining his dominance in the run game and in the win column.
Looking at the game log of last season and Miller certainly has room for improvement to make up that ground on Manziel. In eight of 12 games last season, Miller threw for one of fewer touchdown passes; Manziel only had four such instances of that.
Miller will benefit from having incoming freshman Dontre Wilson who will be a dynamic playmaker in the slot and catching passes out of the backfield to serve as a big-play target for Miller as he looks to boost his stats as a junior.
Another way for Miller to improve his efficiency as a passer, where he had seven games with a completion percentage less than 60, compared to only two for Manziel, is short passes to Wilson in the flat and out of the backfield on screen passes. Putting the ball in the playmakers hands on high-percentage plays will increase his completion percentage, yards and quarterback rating.
If Manziel can complete 60% of his passes, throw for 3,000 yards and at least 25 touchdowns while rushing for 1,400 yards and 15 more touchdowns and going undefeated for the season, then Miller will have put himself in position to not only get an invite to the Heisman ceremony, but to actually win the award.
Miller has a great chance to be the seventh Heisman winner in school history and the first winner since Troy Smith took home the honor in 2006.
The rushing statistics will be easy for him to accumulate and the Buckeyes have an easy path to the BCS National Championship Game in 2013, but the real challenge will be improving as a pocket passer, but I think he can make the necessary improvements to his game to be the top challenger to Manziel.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt