Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has formed a strong bond with former Buckeye QB great Troy Smith, although the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner has refrained from offering pointers.
“He’s staying away from that so far,” Miller said. “He’s just keeping me grounded and keeping me being a good leader.”
Whenever they speak, Miller said Smith has his full attention.
“He’s a good quarterback and a good leader. He’s the whole package,” Miller said.
The 28-year-old Smith, who had a brief NFL career and before bouncing around in football’s minor leagues, has always kept his ties to the Buckeyes.
He sat in OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith’s private box for the Central Florida game last week. And as Miller carved up the opposition with his legs and arm, Smith felt as if he were watching a better version of himself.
“I like Braxton. I think he has a glass ceiling over his head, and all he’s got to do is explode through it,” Smith said. “I think he’s got all the potential in the world to be the greatest ever to play here.”
That’s certainly saying something considering Smith’s accomplishments. He holds the OSU season records for best completion percentage (65.3) and TD passes (30). He also set the all-time career mark for pass-efficiency rating.
But what ultimately cemented his place in Buckeye lore were his three straight wins as a starter over Michigan. The streak began with a 145-yard rushing game against the favored Wolverines as a sophomore in 2004.
“I totally believe whatever you want to fulfill in life, you can’t hold on to the past,” Smith said. “Records are made to be broken, and he’ll do just that. He’ll continue to do it.”
Miller has rushed for 302 yards in two games, which is first among all quarterbacks nationally and fourth overall. Michigan’s Denard Robinson is second among QBs with 245, and Nevada’s Cody Fajardo is third with 231.
The sophomore from Wayne High School also has 362 passing yards, putting him 18th in the country in total offense. He’s completing 66.7 percent of his tosses.
But despite that impressive rate, OSU coach Urban Meyer is looking for better accuracy. Miller still misfires at times and uncorks an occasional dud. Meyer blames that on poor mechanics.
“He gets good — really, really good — and then he does something, and you go, ‘What was that?’ ” Meyer said. “But it’s the normal maturation of a quarterback. He knows it. He sees it. Everybody can see it. We did a play-action pass (last week) and boom, he threw it into the ground. He’s got a great release. He’s got good arm strength. We’re just trying to push that maturation as fast as we can.”
One area where Miller hasn’t proven himself yet is stretching the field with deep passes. The Buckeyes haven’t asked him to throw many bombs, and opponents are catching on.
“It is a concern. … We have to (try) because they’re forcing us,” Meyer said. “Right now, teams are saying, ‘We’re going to stop (the run).’ ”
That was one of Smith’s strong points, of course, as anyone who remembers his game-deciding touchdown pass against Penn State in 2006 can attest. In a play that probably sealed the Heisman for him, Smith rolled to his right, reversed field and then uncorked a perfect spiral from beyond midfield to Brian Robiskie in the end zone.
But while he evolved into a polished passer, Smith said fans may have forgotten his inconsistency in the early stages of his career, which is why he believes there should be no reservations about Miller.
“I had to grow that way, too. I had to definitely grow in the passing game,” Smith said.
Asked if there’s anything Miller already does better than him, Smith didn’t hesitate.
“Run,” he said. “Athletically, he’s heads over heels above where I was when I started in this program.”