August 30, 2012

Miller making progress under Meyer

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - With two days to go until his debut as Ohio State's head coach, the question remains: what kind of quarterback will Urban Meyer have in Braxton Miller when the Buckeyes take the field against Miami (OH) on Saturday?

The first-year Buckeyes head coach is hopeful that it will be a comfortable one.

"Braxton has come a million miles. I think he's fairly comfortable," Meyer said. "Our goal is to make him not an athlete playing quarterback but a quarterback that's very athletic."

Calling the 2011 version of Miller "an athlete playing quarterback" might even be relative praise from Meyer. During ESPN's All-Access: Training Days television show, the OSU coach said that Miller was at times just an athlete taking snaps during his freshman year.

While Buckeye fans are hopeful that Meyer will transform Miller into his next great quarterback in line with Alex Smith and Tim Tebow, comments like that show just far he must come before he can be mentioned in the same breath with the 2005 No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft and the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner.

Asked to compare Miller's evolution this offseason to any of his former quarterbacks, Meyer opted for one that might not have been a great, but one who found success at the college level in his own right in former Florida quarterback Chris Leak.

"Chris Leak is a guy that was not asked to- he just didn't lead very much," Meyer said. When we got down there (to Florida), just finished his sophomore year. Very good passer. Not a very good leader. Chris will tell you that. Became a good leader, won a national championship.

Comparisons to Leak might not rile up the OSU fan base or jump start Heisman campaigns, but when Meyer begins to discuss Miller as an athlete and not just a leader, it's clear that the current Buckeye quarterback is in a class of his own.

"He's the most dynamic athlete I've ever coached at quarterback," Meyer said of Miller. "What I just said, people should go, 'Woah,' and he is. And really by far. I mean, that's how good of an athlete he is."

Although often soft-spoken, Miller said that he welcomes the high expectations that his new head coach has been placing on him since he arrived at OSU in late November 2011.

"I'm going to do everything right, and if I mess up, I'm just going to watch it on film," Miller said. "I love the pressure. It makes me go a little bit harder."

Although Meyer sees signs of Miller combining his natural athleticism with newly learned leadership skills, the two-time national champion head coach wanted to bring a culture change to the OSU program, and that change starts with Miller. Whereas the former Buckeyes' coaching staff may have been content with punting the ball away and playing the field position game, Meyer wants to see his team strive to advance the ball up the field, even if that means showing negative emotion when it doesn't.

"We've hammered it. I have seen a change," Meyer said. "We've addressed it over and over again."

It's not just the coaches who have noticed that change in Miller, but his teammates as well.

"I see it a lot. Coach Meyer always talks about how whenever he has a bad play or whenever he screws up, he sees his eye color change a little bit," OSU center Corey Linsley said. "He's doing a really good job of letting his emotions show and letting all of us know and getting us all going."

But while everybody around him claims that they've seen a change in his personality, Miller contends that he's just making the natural progression from being a freshman to a sophomore. If there's any change in the Huber Heights, Ohio native this season, Miller said that it will be a result of Meyer's spread offense.

"I'm just a little bit older, more mature, more of a leader," Miller said. "It's a different type of offense, so it's going to be a whole lot different things happening."


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