September 3, 2009

Performance Report: Braxton Miller

Every weekend, BuckeyeGrove will be on the road watching some of the top players in the state of Ohio face off on the gridiron. This past weekend one of the games that we attended was between Huber Heights Wayne and Cincinnati Princeton.

One of the major attractions in that game was the highly touted and much talked about junior quarterback for Wayne, Braxton Miller. Miller is already seen by many as the top prospect in Ohio in the 2011 class, and someone who has a chance to become one of the most highly touted quarterbacks every to come from the state of Ohio.

There is no better way to get a feel for how good a player is than to go and see him actually play games. On film there is no doubt that Miller is capable of making some impressive plays, but seeing him up close and in person is the best way to get an accurate judgment of how talented he really is.

What he brought to the table

The conditions on Friday night in Dayton were less than ideal for a quarterback. It was a driving rain storm, it was windy, and overall it just wasn't a whole heck of a lot of fun. With the weather, that greatly limited both the play calling, and how effective any offensive player could be. Despite all that, Miller still showed a lot of why he is so highly recruited.

One thing that really stood out about Miller this year as opposed to last year is his physical size. He is now every bit of 6-foot-2 and about 185 pounds. He has the look of a projectable quarterback, and the extra inch or two on his frame from last year alleviates one of the concerns that people had about him.

Also, Miller is definitely faster this year than he was last season. On his longest run of the day, one that went for 50 yards, Miller absolutely turned on the jets and simply out ran everyone on Princeton's defense. That isn't easy to do considering Princeton has one of the fastest defensive units in all of Southwest Ohio. The run showed that he is definitely capable of being a threat on the ground from the quarterback spot.

When it came to throwing the football, Miller proved that he could be effective both inside the pocket and outside the pocket. 90 percent of the plays that Wayne runs are out of the shotgun, so he doesn't do many traditional quarterback drops, but when he took the snap out of the gun and fired from the pocket, he showed a nice solid release and good arm strength.

While he definitely was capable in the pocket, where Miller is ahead of a lot of his peers is throwing on the move. On several occasions Miller was able to get outside of the tackle box, and find an open receiver. On his lone touchdown throw of the night, Miller rolled to his right and made a nice throw over a linebacker in zone coverage to his receiver for a 20 yard touchdown. It showed that he is capable of being accurate on the move, and that can be very important.

Finally Miller obviously controls the huddle and is the unquestioned leader of the offense. Wayne was never truly threatened by Princeton, but early on when things were tight, Miller made big plays at big times, and seems to have the respect of the entire offensive unit. For a quarterback that is of the utmost importance.

Room for improvement

Because of the weather it is tough to be too critical of Miller and his performance, but still there are some holes in his game that were definitely on display last weekend.

The biggest flaw seems to be his footwork. When on the run Miller at times doesn't get his feet set, and in turn his shoulders do not get square to the line of scrimmage before making a pass. What this often times does is force Miller to throw from an unbalanced position, and that causes some throws to end up high. That problem is twofold, one he misses an open receiver, and two if a defender is in the area, it gives him a chance to pick off the pass.

Along with his footwork on, at times Miller can get a little dicey with his throws from inside the pocket. While he has plenty of arm strength, when simply taking the ball from the gun and throwing, he can often times miss a receiver just because he is slightly off with release point, and he will simply not put enough touch on the pass. It isn't a major problem, but still it is something that was on display at times on Friday.

Overall Impression

Overall with all things considered, it was a pretty good season opener for Miller. He finished 4-9 through the air for 74 yards and one touchdown. Also on the ground he officially was credited with 34 yards, but that is misleading because of a few bad snaps which he recovered for big losses. His actual running yards were closer to 70 if you take out the sacks and fumbled exchanges.

In terms of his overall play, Miller wasn't impressed with his performance. He said, "On a scale of 1-10, I would say a 4 or 4.5 because I had a few turnovers, and I was down after that."

His head coach Jay Minton says that Miller often times can be his own harshest critic. "The longer you talk to him, the more you will see that he will never give himself a lot of credit. He is hard on himself. He is probably harder on himself than anyone is. Given the injury and given the weather, and our style of offense, we are in the gun 90-95 percent of the time, and it was a torrential down pour. I'm not going to give him a higher grade than he gave himself because he knows that he has to overcome things, as does our whole offense."

It is easy to see why Miller is such a good prospect. He has good size, great speed, good arm strength, and most importantly a great head on his shoulders. There is really nothing he isn't capable of doing, now it is just a matter of him shoring up a few weaknesses. If he does that, the sky is absolutely the limit.

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