August 4, 2011
Miller growing, not feeling pressure
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - One by one the Ohio State football freshmen walked into a media room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Wednesday to introduce themselves publicly as Buckeyes for the first time.
As if the media wasn't clamoring enough during the wait to see Braxton Miller take the podium - his young teammates filled the adjacent doorways to watch him address reporters.
Much like players standing around him in the huddle, it was like the quarterback has already taken the necessary step toward being the next big thing at Ohio State.
Then, like a pro that had done it many times before, Miller deflected the inevitable question regarding whether he's already starting to feel the pressure of guiding the Buckeyes.
"Not as much," Miller responded. "Right now it is going faster than it was six months ago, but I am taking it day by day. Taking baby steps."
Given Miller has yet to partake in a fall practice at Ohio State, it isn't often a freshman is put in a position of such great responsibility.
No freshman quarterback has begun the season for the Buckeyes as the starter since Art Schlichter did it in 1978, but the highly touted Miller finds himself in the thick of a quarterback battle that is set to resume in just days.
Gone is star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who left the program a year prematurely amid scandal. Before Pryor's unexpected departure, he was still subject to a five-game suspension, so Miller was already competing to be the stopgap.
Now stakes are exponentially higher for Miller, who could be the answer for an Ohio State program hoping to leap out of the dark shadows of scandal it has spent all summer residing in.
Also vying for the position is 26-year-old senior Joe Bauserman, redshirt sophomore Kenny Guiton, and redshirt freshman Taylor Graham. None of those three guys, however, have earned the attention Miller has already enjoyed.
Enrolling early in the spring, Miller has three weeks of practice under his belt under the supervision of the coaches. In the spring game in Ohio Stadium, Miller showed great elusiveness by keeping plays alive and moving the chains with his legs.
It was those attributes that made Pryor such a dangerous weapon for Ohio State - a team that has undoubtedly become accustomed to an athletic quarterback that can make plays when everything seems otherwise lost.
In Pryor's absence, Miller understands that more is expected out of him. Enrolling in spring football, he said, will go a long way in preparing him for such a responsibility come fall camp.
"There's a lot more pressure right now, but I am just going to pick things up," Miller said. "(Enrolling early) is a big advantage especially learning the playbook. That takes time. It takes years to get everything down pat and stuff.
"I'm just trying to learn the plays so when I do get in I'll know what I am doing."
It had been a long road for Pryor in his three years with the program, particularly because he had come such a long way since his freshman season where he started the majority of the year.
He had grown immensely as a passer, likely because his understanding of reading defenses and Ohio State's thick playbook had almost become second nature.
Pryor was still around during the spring, where he spent time with Miller coaching him on the intricacies of playing the position.
"He taught me a lot of things and helped a lot in the spring game," said Miller, who's gained 15 pounds of muscle since he enrolled in Jan. "It was my first spring, so I was kind of lost. Anything I needed he was right there to give me advice."
Coaches indicated that Miller had issues with understanding Ohio State's playbook in the spring, which is to be expected out of a player fresh out of high school.
Even months later, the Huber Heights native admits he has a lot to work on with the passing plays, but has noticed great growth in the short time he's been with the Buckeyes.
"Mostly the passing plays because I have most of the run plays down pat," he said. "The passing plays, I get confused sometimes because of the routes - there's a lot of them. Day by day, I am going to take it slow and learn the process."
Perhaps the biggest lesson Miller can take from Pryor was staying out of trouble off the field. Pryor's involvement in a tattoo scandal forced the quarterback to leave school early and enter the NFL, likely earlier than he would've preferred.
Miller claimed to understand that remaining focused on football is the way to go and he vowed to stay consumed on the things that were important.
"The Buckeye Nation is wonderful. It is good to be in. I am just taking everything slow," Miller said. "I don't really get too involved in (off the field stuff). I am just going to stay humble. That's what I am going to do for the four years that I am here."
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.
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