COLUMBUS – Urban Meyer would have taken the Ohio State coaching job even if Braxton Miller weren’t on the roster. But having the multifaceted quarterback for three more years sure made it easier to say yes.
“When I first got the phone call, I knew about Braxton and that’s the first thing that popped in my head,” said Meyer, who spent last year as a college football commentator for ESPN.
“You’re dead in the water if you don’t have a guy who can play – and he can play.”
Meyer gushed about the Wayne High School graduate at the Big Ten media kickoff last week, though the 6-foot-3 Miller’s passing stats were rather pedestrian last season.
He averaged only 96.6 yards per game through the air. But he did rush for a team-high 715 yards, and his 59.6-yard average was 10th-best among FBS quarterback.
“Braxton has a skill set Tim Tebow never had,” Meyer said, referring to his Heisman-winning QB at Florida. “Braxton is dynamic. He’s the most dynamic quarterback I’ve ever coached. With what I just said, people should go, ‘Whoa.’ But really, (it’s) by far. That’s how good an athlete he is.
“His acceleration is kind of off the charts. I’ve had very few people who can accelerate like that, and I’ve had (NFL) first-rounders all over the place. His acceleration from point A to point B – my strength coach and I just laugh about it. And he’s strong. He’s 215 pounds. He’s real strong.”
But Meyer has some reservations about the passing attack, noting that the Buckeyes played a game last year where they notched just one completion (a 17-7 win over Illinois).
“He’s got arm strength. He’s got the release. People around him have to get better. He’s got to get better,” Meyer said. “Our whole season is banking on it. We’ve got to be able to throw the ball.”
Senior fullback Zach Boren has seen a difference in Miller during player-only summer workouts – especially in the intangible department.
“This offseason, he’s more vocal. He’s taken control of the offense. He’s taking control of the wide receivers. And he never really did that in the past,” Boren said. “He was just Braxton Miller out there making plays. He was kind of timid at times.
“Now, he’s just out there telling guys what to do. ‘Oh, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.’ He’s even bringing guys in on Sundays just to throw pass routes.”
Reporters asked Meyer about the 2006 BCS championship – a result that still perplexes OSU fans. Despite being seven-point favorites, the unbeaten Buckeyes gained just 82 total yards while being humiliated by Florida, 41-14.
“The speed on defense – it was just different. You saw it,” Meyer said. “And on offense, we did a good job. We knew they were very powerful inside (defensively), so we didn’t play around. … We got them on the edge.”
The Buckeyes opened with Ted Ginn’s kickoff return for a TD but fizzled after that. And Meyer said even that score shouldn’t have counted.
“My head came off my shoulders. I saw them hold Reggie Nelson, and it was right in front of me,” he said. “They didn’t call it. I’m going berserk, as I have a tendency to do sometimes, and (linebacker) Brandon Siler, one of our captains, grabbed my armed and squeezed it real tight and said, ‘Coach, we’re going to be all right. We got ‘em.’ ”
Putting Ohio State and Michigan in separate divisions is still a sore point among fans of both teams. Their annual regular-season finale could lose some of its luster with the Big Ten championship looming the next week.
Asked if he thought that made a difference, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said: “I don’t know. I couldn’t answer that. I know it won’t for me.
“I think the defining experience is always playing in that game. If you talk to guys from Ohio, if you talk to guys from Michigan, the players know what their record was against either school. They take great pride in that.”
Hoke didn’t hesitate when asked his record as an assistant and coach. “It’s 6-3,” he said.