May 3, 2011

Miller's legs make him viable starting option



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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Michael Brewster provided an example of what he feels makes Terrelle Pryor so dangerous.



"I am no quarterback expert by any means, but Terrelle brings an aspect to the game where he can make plays and that's what you want your quarterback to do," Brewster said. "You want him to be able to make plays.



"I have seen Terrelle literally shake off a defensive end that hit him in the back and run over and throw a first down. He can do things that a lot of people can't do."



That's what Ohio State has become accustomed to relying on over the course of the past three seasons. Pryor's ability to escape pressure, extend plays, and move the chains when the offense is in a jam is what made Ohio State so successful a year ago.



Pryor's legs saved Ohio State's season a year ago - specifically when he moved the chains with a 14-yard scramble on a 4th-and-10 on Nov. 20 at Iowa with his team trailing late in the game. The Buckeyes scored the game-winning touchdown on that drive.



"It's always great when you have that element added to your game," senior left tackle Mike Adams said. "You guys have seen Terrelle. If his protection breaks down or something he can get out of there and run past everybody. It's a little bit of a security blanket, which can go a long way."



Perhaps the most electrifying offensive weapon Ohio State has had in the Jim Tressel era, Pryor will miss the first five games of next season while serving a suspension.



After a month of evaluating the remaining four quarterbacks that are vying to take Pryor's spot while the senior is out, Tressel and the staff aren't close to making the decision.



But if Ohio State's spring game is any indication of what the future could hold for the Buckeyes, early-enrolled freshman Braxton Miller could be the man for the most important job in Columbus during the fall.



"He's shaky," linebacker Andrew Sweat said shortly after the spring-concluding scrimmage. "I missed a tackle on Braxton today out in open field and I didn't get my feet down. I'll be sure to make that tackle next time. But he's not easy to bring down."



Given the reputation Miller brought during his high school days in Dayton, the highly touted dual-threat quarterback had already become a fan favorite long before he stepped foot in Columbus.



But in the spring game Miller officially won the fans' hearts over, specifically when directing a scrimmage-high 14-play, 92-yard touchdown drive. It was during that drive where Miller sported a lot of the same characteristics Pryor has shown, using his legs to extend plays and move the chains.



"I think he brings an element to the game that Terrelle brings," Sweat said. "Obviously when they're in empty and you see someone that can't run back there and has a big brace on their knee, you're not really worried about them taking off.



"When you're a linebacker you're worried about the run-pass conflict when you see Terrelle or Braxton back there. You're on your toes. Any time you have a running quarterback it puts the defense on their heels more."



Miller spent the majority of spring practice repping with the fourth team, but he got multiple drives in Ohio Stadium with the first team. Miller finished the scrimmage 7-of-12 for 73 yards and a touchdown, in addition to 19 rushing yards on four carries.



He's battling Joe Bauserman, Taylor Graham, and Kenny Guiton for the right to take snaps for the Buckeyes on Saturdays in the fall, but he's the only one of the three that brings that same rushing element Pryor has provided.



"I think they all have their little niches," Sweat said, "but every time you have a running quarterback in the mix you have to worry about the pass and run."



There were signs of inexperience and nerves from Miller in the scrimmage, but the overall calm aura the young freshman gave off was evident from the press box. Despite facing an immense pressure that would make the most experience quarterback fret, Miller maintained his composure, kept his eyes down field, and moved the chains.



"We shrunk the playbook and I think he felt more comfortable," Brewster said. "He has a really quick release and it was great to see him relaxed. He improvises and he can find guys. Today was the best I've seen him play all spring."



Perhaps rising to the occasion is another thing the coaching staff has written down in their notes.



Tressel also admitted Ohio State had to simplify the offense for the freshman while he was in the scrimmage. After all, Miller has only a month of practice at Ohio State under his belt. However, the freshman's ability to extend plays could give him the leg up on the battle in the fall.



"Braxton probably played more relaxed and had a little more fun than he has had," Tressel said. "When we figure (the quarterback battle) out, we are going to play whoever we need to."



Typically, Ohio State has needed one that scrambles.





Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.









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