CHICAGO -- Urban Meyer wasted little time updating everyone on his quarterback, saying during his opening statement that Braxton Miller is ready to go at full speed and is in the "best shape of his life."
As for what else the third-year Ohio State Buckeyes coach addressed during his time at the podium: •As happy as Meyer is with his quarterback, he was disappointed in his offensive line and his secondary coming out of the spring. He fielded three different questions about the O-line during his less-than-15-minute news conference, plus one more about the importance of keeping Miller healthy, and he said that Chad Lindsay, Billy Price and Jacoby Boren are all candidates to start at center.
•Meyer did not hide his feelings on a Big Ten East division that also features traditional heavyweights Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, saying: "I think it's one of the toughest divisions in college football." He mentioned three tough road games, as the Buckeyes will travel to East Lansing, State College and Minneapolis (in addition to College Park for Maryland's Big Ten home opener).
•Meyer is much more pleased with what he has at linebacker, saying, "the last two years they weren't what we expect" before conceding that two years ago they weren't that bad. Still, anytime you have to move a fullback to linebacker, he said, you have a problem, especially at a place that has churned out the likes of James Laurinaitis and A.J. Hawk.
•New Ohio State president Michael Drake took office June 30, and Meyer said he has invited him to meet the team. Meyer said he looks forward to working with Drake but added that it really doesn't affect how Meyer does his job as long as the president takes care of business.
•Meyer reiterated that defensive end Tracy Sprinkle is no longer a part of the program following his arrest and charges in the wake of a bar fight earlier this month.
•Asked about Miller's durability issues, Meyer said it has more to do with great players who go above and beyond what their body tells them to do. The same questions came for stars like Tim Tebow, John Simon and Christian Bryant, he said.
•Asked what Ohio State needs to do to live up to the preseason expectations, many of which have it winning the Big Ten, Meyer said chemistry, trust and developing young players are the top priorities.
Urban Meyer stresses offensive line upgrades at Big Ten Media Days
It’s strange to think of this, but Ohio State brings a two-game losing streak into the season. It’s true. Look it up. The Buckeyes ended last season with losses to Michigan and then to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. That followed a 24-0 start to the Urban Meyer regime. Now, for his next act, Meyer is looking to lead Ohio State to its first Big Ten title since … 2009.
To achieve that goal, Meyer’s team has some issues to resolve.
“No. 1 on the list is development of that offensive line,” said Meyer.
The front came a long way under line coach Ed Warinner. But the line has four starters that must be replaced with the lone starter back being tackle Taylor Decker. The good news:
“Our quarterback is at full speed and in the best shape of his life,” said Meyer.
No doubt, having a healthy Braxton Miller means the Buckeyes will have a good chance to win all of the games on their schedule. He’s a dynamic playmaker and a two-time Silver Football Award winner. But can Miller stay healthy? It’s a worry, as he has struggled to stay on the field during his career. And star backup Kenny Guiton is no longer around to save the day.
Another thing to watch: The defense has a lot to prove, especially vs. the pass. In 2013, Ohio State ranked 11th in the Big Ten vs. the pass (268.0 ypg). The 31 touchdown passes allowed were more than any other league team. Meyer hired Chris Ash from Arkansas to co-coordinate the defense and tighten the pass defense in particular. No doubt, the back seven has a lot to prove. Meyer likes his linebackers.
“It’s the best the group has been right now as far as chemistry, as far as trust, as far as operating as a unit,” he said.
The secondary also has a lot to prove for a unit that has just one starter back. There may be some growing pains early on. If so, the dynamic offense may be able to cover while the defense develops in a Big Ten East race that could come down to OSU’s visit to Michigan State on Nov. 8.
Urban Meyer on remembering Jim Tressel's resignation three years ago and where the Ohio State football program stands today. (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer June 5, 2014)
Ohio State QB pledge Joe Burrow at the Elite 11 regional camp at Ohio State on Monday, June 2. Burrow warmed up and then took part in the event, which lasted for more than three hours. Here are several of the throws he made. (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer June 3, 2014)
Ohio State Football: Game Day Experience 2013
Plantation (FL) American Heritage QB Torrance Gibson, one of the top quarterbacks in the 2015 class, talks about his recruitment, Ohio State and becoming a more consistent passer. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer
Urban Meyer, Ohio State Players Visit Children’s Hospital To Deliver Holiday Gifts
The Buckeyes won that next-to-last game of the season in overtime, but the game was a slog in which Wisconsin’s defense seemed a step ahead of Ohio State’s offense.
“I felt like I got outcoached,” Herman, OSU’s offensive coordinator, told the Big Ten Network in June.
Chris Ash was the Wisconsin defensive coordinator who got the better of Ohio State that day. Now, after coaching for four years under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and Arkansas, he will become a Buckeye.
Although Ohio State wouldn’t confirm the hirings yesterday, which were first reported by SI.com, both Ash and Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson will join Meyer’s staff as the Buckeyes attempt to improve their beleaguered defense.
Ash replaces co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers, who became the head coach at James Madison in December. Johnson takes over for Mike Vrabel, who was hired by the Houston Texans last week.
Ash’s primary responsibility will be to help shore up Ohio State’s leaky pass defense. His resume suggests that he can. In 2011, Ash’s first season as defensive coordinator, Wisconsin ranked 13th nationally in scoring defense and 15th in total defense. Its pass defense was fourth, yielding only 163.6 yards a game.
In 2012, Wisconsin ranked 23rd in pass defense. Ohio State’s players and coaches don’t need statistics as proof.
“I wouldn’t say they were taking it to us physically,” center Corey Linsley said about that game. “But they were taking it to us fundamentally and outexecuting us and outscheming us.”
Herman said that Ash used a simple but effective approach.
“He called one front and one coverage,” Herman said. “Within that front and coverage, he could adjust to any formation or motion we gave him. … Chris had his guys more prepared than I did.”
This will be the second time Herman and Ash have been on the same staff. Both were at Iowa State in 2009. Ash is an Iowa native.
BTN analyst and former coach Gerry DiNardo remembers being so impressed watching Ash at practice as defensive backs coach in his first season with the Badgers that he made a point to tell Bielema and athletic director Barry Alvarez afterward. DiNardo was particularly enamored with Ash’s ability to give players immediate and insightful feedback.
“The best coaches tell you what you do right and what you do wrong immediately after a rep,” DiNardo said. “I see him as a real expert on the back end — the secondary and linebackers and coverages. And I also see him as a guy who brings great energy to practice and the games. I personally think those are the things the Ohio State defense needs — expertise on the back end and energy.”
Ohio State ranked 110th in passing yards allowed and 83rd in passing efficiency defense in 2013.
The Buckeyes’ defensive line was a strength last year, but Vrabel’s unexpected departure was a blow. Johnson’s hiring is considered a major coup. Highly respected for his coaching and recruiting ability, Johnson was the last remaining coach from Joe Paterno’s veteran staff. He had coached for the Nittany Lions since 1996.
Johnson was appointed interim head coach after Bill O’Brien left for the Texans job — and took Vrabel with him — but was disappointed after being bypassed when Vanderbilt’s James Franklin was hired for the job full time.
Johnson has coached six first-round NFL draft picks, including 2000 No.?1 overall pick Courtney Brown.
He also is familiar with at least a couple of current Buckeyes. While at Penn State, Johnson recruited Noah Spence and Tommy Schutt, both of whom would have played for the Nittany Lions if not for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
In 2006, Rivals.com named Johnson the national college football recruiter of the year.
What Chris Ash's Arkansas tenure means for Ohio State January 14, 2014 Source: Land-Grant Holy Land - It's been a whirlwind last 18 hours for the Ohio State football program. After news first broke yesterday evening that Ohio State had gauged the interest of the recently departed from Penn State Larry Johnson Sr to potentially be their defensive line coach, within 2-3 hours, we had news that Johnson was in the process of finalizing a deal with the Buckeyes.
Flash forward just over 12 hours, and Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel once again had news with huge ramifications for the future of Urban Meyer's Buckeyes. According to Thamel, the Buckeyes will be bringing in Arkansas (and former Wisconsin co-)defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Thamel also confirmed the finalization of Johnson's contract.
But a number of Ohio State fans were instantly taken aback by the fact that the Buckeyes were bringing in the caretaker of a defense that ranked 94th in F/+ for the 2013 season. By comparison, Luke Fickell's embattled Ohio State D last season was 45th.
So how much of that defense was the result of the players Ash inherited in his first and only year in Fayetteville and how much of it was something he either was or wasn't doing? We went straight to the source and Arkansas Fight's Doc Harper for this edition of '5 minutes in the Holy Land'.
Does Chris Ash's departure from Arkansas to Ohio State come down to money? Responsibilities? And from your year following him, is his recruiting prowess better than 247Sports' recruiter rankings would have us believe?
I don't know for sure, but I highly doubt it's money. Bielema's made a really big deal since coming here out of making sure he could afford to keep any assistants who would otherwise leave for money. So unless the Buckeyes were simply opening the vault for him, it seems unlikely money was a big factor. It may be that he's more comfortable in the Big 10 or that he wanted to go to a more successful program that already has more talent at its disposal, but hard to say for sure.
He was never really hyped as recruiter. He certainly wasn't known for being one of the top recruiters on Arkansas' staff. Of course, Ohio State typically has much more success in recruiting than Arkansas or Wisconsin, so he may be more successful recruiting to Ohio State, but I can't honestly say he's some sort of ace recruiter.
How much of Arkansas' defense was new FAU head coach Charlie Partridge and how much of it was Ash? What sort of philosophies did they employ?
Arkansas was very conservative on defense most of the year due to talent deficiencies in the secondary. Opposing receivers typically received pretty generous cushions in an effort to prevent big plays. It didn't always work – look at the game-winner for LSU to end the season – but Arkansas' defense did gradually improve through the season (We did hold Auburn to 35 points in November, which is much more impressive now than it was then). I'm sure he wanted to attack more as most coaches say they want to, but we just didn't have the personnel to do it.
Fans were disappointed in basic tackling by the secondary, something for which he actively promotes himself. You can see a particularly egregious performance from Tevin Mitchel in the Ole Miss game on a play that went for a touchdown in the second half and essentially lost the game for us.
I never had any indication Partridge was doing more than what he was supposed to be doing on the defensive line.
Obviously Arkansas' defense struggled, to say the least, this past season. Was this the result of the previous regime, or does Ash merit some of the blame?
Most fans gave Ash a pass. We know the Petrino staff barely recruited defense. I mean, Arkansas at one point this season gave up 111 straight points to South Carolina, Alabama, and Auburn, so fans will give the current coaches at least some blame for being that bad, but it was still talent more than anything else. After 2012, a really negative mentality became prominent in many of our players, and when things started to get bad this season, you could see it coming back to the surface, but the coaches deserve credit for somewhat righting the ship in November. Even though Arkansas didn't win, the players gave full effort – which didn't happen in November 2012. Very few were ever calling for him to be fired.
What did Arkansas' players think of Chris Ash, defensive coordinator?
There didn't seem to be many problems. He was Arkansas' third defensive coordinator in three seasons, so we never got the vibe that anybody was really close with each other, but there weren't many rumors of problems. There were even a few players who never sniffed the field under the previous staff, but things clicked playing for Ash and the other new coaches. And all of a sudden, we had these seniors starting games that weren't even able to get on special teams in previous years.
So, yes, the players seemed happy most of the year. They never quit playing hard during the losing streak – other than the Alabama and South Carolina games. They fought until the end when they had nothing left to play for, which is a good indication that they enjoyed playing for the coaches.
Given some of the defense's issues, as odd as it sounds to ask, are you guys at all excited to get a functional do over defensively? Is there anything about Ash as a coach you're likely to miss?
Arkansas fans just want new players to come in. Unless Bielema's able to find some all-star who will get the fans really excited, we just want to see the new players get to Fayetteville and watch the young players develop. Arkansas really needs someone who can convince good defensive recruits to be Razorbacks – particularly linebackers and defensive backs, so we'll be watching for that.
Ash To Bring Aggressive Defense To OSU January 14, 2014 Source: BuckeyeSports.com - So, what do we know about Chris Ash, the co-defensive coordinator that Ohio State has just hired, news reported first by per SI.com’s Pete Thamel?
Well, he previously was the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach at Arkansas after working with Razorbacks’ head coach Bret Bielema at Wisconsin.
A season ago, the Hogs were 88th in the nation in scoring defense, 76th in total defense and 104th in team passing efficiency defense, though those numbers are not the be-all, end-all considering the dumpster fire that Bielema inherited upon arrival from interim coach John L. Smith.
In fact, The Razorbacks were 113th in passing defense the season before adding Ash to the defensive staff, similar to Ohio State's 110th-place finish this past season.
Prior to that, in 2012, Ash's Badgers led the Big Ten and ranked third in the NCAA in three-and-out percentage while finishing 13th in total defense and 19th in scoring defense. The year before that, Wisconsin was 13th in the nation in scoring defense and 15th in total defense. Wisconsin made the Rose Bowl in each of those seasons to complete a three-year run of trips to Pasadena.
But what kind of defense does he prefer to run as he joins a defensive staff featuring Luke Fickell and Kerry Coombs and now is without Mike Vrabel and Everett Withers? Well, for starters, an instructional video by Ash that can be found on Amazon.com is titled “Chris Ash: Aggressive 4-3 Defense."
In fact, here are a few clips on YouTube of Ash outlining some of his core beliefs and strategies.
Aggressive 4-3 Defense: Setting Up the System
Aggressive 4-3 Defense: Stuffing the Run
Aggressive 4-3 Defense: Shutting Down the Passing Game
Looking a little deeper, Ash has done a number of interviews over the years that have outlined his defensive philosophy. For starters, here’s his take on what he likes to see out of his defenses, as told to the Wisconsin State Journal in 2011 when asked about what he likes out of defenses put together by former Ohio State assistant Lovie Smith.
"I just like the way they play," Ash said of Smith's defenses. "They're simple with what they do. They get their guys to play as hard as anybody in the league on defense. It has nothing to do with great Xs and Os, they don't run a lot of defenses. They do what they do and they do it really well and they do it with great fundamentals. I buy into that."
He also abhors giving up the big play, something that will come in handy when fixing an Ohio State defense that gave up a lot of them in 2013. That was an issue that plagued Wisconsin in 2011, as well, leading Ash to address the problems, as he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"Our scheme is built on discipline," Ash said. "Our scheme is built on team defense, where guys have to be in the right spots.
"We were, when you watch our film last season, in the right spots a lot of the time.
"It was the handful of times that you're not . . . that is when we gave up big plays."
In addition, here is an interview Ash did with X&O Labs which further outlines some of his defensive philosophies.
As for whether Ash might fit into what Ohio State is trying to do defensively – something that has been an issue in previous years with Fickell and Everett Withers running the show – here’s a take from X’s and O’s guru Ross Fulton, who writes for the blog Eleven Warriors and also posts on our Ask The Insiders message board.
Ash's quarters scheme shut down OSU in 2012. He and Fickell's approach fit better. And I would be surprised if Ash made the move without ...
“If Urban Meyer could have had a little longer, I think he might have had Derrick Williams instead of Percy Harvin (a year later),” Houchens said in a phone interview Tuesday.
A few weeks after that visit from Meyer, Williams announced that he was going to Penn State. Nittany Lions assistant Johnson, one of the best recruiters in the last two decades in the Maryland/Washington D.C. area, had helped lock down Williams for coach Joe Paterno.
Now Johnson and Meyer are going to be on the same team.
“I was like, 'Oh Lord, he's going to haunt the Big Ten,” Houchens said after learning of Johnson's addition to the Ohio State staff. “No disrespect to the staff there, but Urban just got better and the Buckeyes just got better.”
As reported by SI.com, Johnson will be Ohio State's new defensive line coach after coaching at Penn State since 1996. A source confirmed that Ohio State plans to make the official announcement of the hire on Wednesday. Johnson is expected to make an immediate impact for the Buckeyes in recruiting one of the more talent-rich areas on the East Coast. Whenever Meyer hires an assistant, he says the ability to recruit is what matters most.
“Larry is probably one of the most genuine guys I've met in the coaching profession,” said Elijah Brooks, the football coach at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., who has running back Mark Allen pledged to Penn State's 2014 class. “He's one of the most respected people in this business and I just think it's a huge pickup for Ohio State. Coach Johnson always has a great rapport with the coaches in this area and it doesn't matter where he goes, he'll be able to attract players, and recruits love him. It's definitely going to make a huge impact.”
Ohio State also hired Chris Ash as its new co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach. Ash was at Arkansas for a year after arriving with Bret Bielema from Wisconsin.
Johnson was at Penn State forever, and had created a crucial pipeline of talent for the Nittany Lions from the Maryland area, where Johnson has served as a successful high school coach before Paterno hired him. Houchens said Johnson and current Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, a former assistant at Illinois and at Florida with Meyer, were the two best recruiters of the area he has seen.
Houchens figures Johnson, 61, will have a strong desire to recruit for his new boss after serving as the interim coach at Penn State after Bill O'Brien left for the NFL, but for the second time not getting the full-time head coaching job. New coach James Franklin offered Johnson the chance to stay as the Nittany Lions' defensive line coach, but Johnson chose to move on.
“It's going to be different seeing him in red and silver instead of blue and white,” said Houchens, now the head coach at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. “I guarantee you he's got a fire burning inside him right now. Larry's that type of guy that's very personable, but he's a real competitor. He's going to take all this stuff personally.
“He's going to feel like he got slighted, so he's going to have a little chip on his shoulder to say, 'I'm going to show those people what they lost.' He's got something to prove, and I just think there's a lot of reasons Ohio State just got better. But I'm excited because it's going to take Urban's program to another level.”
Johnson coached seven first-team All-Americans on the defensive line at Penn State, with six becoming first-round NFL draft picks, including Courtney Brown, the overall No. 1 pick to the Browns in 2000. Johnson is also the father of former Penn State and NFL running back Larry Johnson Jr. and former Penn State receiver Tony Johnson.
He'll take over at Ohio State for former Buckeye Mike Vrabel, who left to join the Houston Texans after three years coaching in Columbus. In that time, Vrabel had begun to establish a reputation as a passionate recruiter and good teacher of the skills he acquired during his NFL playing career.
“He was an outstanding coach,” OSU AD Gene Smith said after Vrabel's departure. “Now we'll have to go find another one.”
They found someone who has been doing his job much longer.
“He's a first-class guy,” said Bob Milloy, the head coach at Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md. That's the alma mater of receiver Stefon Diggs, a sought-after recruit whom the Buckeyes finished second for in recruiting behind Maryland two years ago.
“He's always got his navy blue suit on with a white shirt and navy tie, very professional. And if he tells you something, he does it. There have been four or five guys I've worked with in recruiting that are great, and Larry is right there.”
Milloy was the former head coach of OSU legend Shawn Springs at Springbrook High School in Maryland. He liked talking football with Meyer during Diggs' recruitment, when Meyer was heavily involved. He said he's dealt with Luke Fickell the most on the OSU staff in recent years and said he likes Fickell a lot. But the idea of Ohio State jumping on the chance to hire Johnson made sense.
“Urban Meyer has never been known for being dumb,” Milloy said. “Larry will no question make a difference. He's just been doing it for so long.”
For the first time, Johnson will be doing it for another school.
Penn State fans voice sadness, disbelief, some anger over Larry Johnson's decision January 15, 2014 Source: PennLive.com - When PennLive’s Bob Flounders reported that Larry Johnson turned down a position on new Penn State football coach James Franklin’s staff, commenters weren’t surprised.
Three hours later when Greg Pickel reported that Johnson was close to finalizing a deal with Big Ten rival Ohio State, the comments turned to disbelief. Some went beyond belief to anger. Others turned their words toward Penn State.
I don't think this will have much of an impact on any of the commits in the 2014 or 2015 recruiting classes, but it will definitely have an impact on some of Ohio State's targets, depending on who Urban Meyer hires to be the next defensive coordinator and the next defensive line coach.
The biggest immediate impact will likely come with 2014 Coppell (TX) defensive linemen Solomon Thomas, who is one of the top defensive players in the 2014 recruiting class and is rated as a five-star prospect in the 247Composite rankings.
Vrabel had done a very good job recruiting the Lone Star State and was one of the biggest reasons Thomas was considering playing his college ball in Columbus. Before Vrabel departed, I had Thomas projected to be in this class. Unfortunately for OSU, I think Thomas is more of a long shot as things currently stand. I think Stanford is the team to beat right now, but Texas and newly minted head coach Charlie Strong are back in the race. It will be interesting to see if he does, in fact, come up to Columbus for an official visit on January 31st as he's currently scheduled to do. I'll try to find out more in the next day or so.
Another 2014 recruit who may have been affected by Vrabel leaving is Norfolk (VA) Lake Taylor defensive end and Buckeye commit Jalyn Holmes. When I reached out to him after the news broke yesterday, he told me he had "no comment" on the news. There's very little, if any chance Holmes will defect from the class, though. I think it's more likely that he was upset with Vrabel and decided it would be best if he kept his mouth shut on the matter.
In any event, I'll see if he has anything more to say a couple of days down the road. We'll keep you posted on his commitment status, but I don't think there's much to worry about.
I also had a brief conversation with 2015 Manassas (VA) Stonewall Jackson defensive tackle and Buckeye target Tim Settle. He told me that he talks to Ohio State every once in a while and would like to visit again. Judging from what he was saying, it didn't seem like he was very focused on recruiting right now.
Settle is rated as a five-star prospect (number 9 overall) in the 2015 247Composite rankings. I currently have him projected to land in the scarlet and gray, there's still a long way to go in his recruitment. Teams like Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, and a couple of other top programs will give the Bucks a run for their money in the race for the 6'3, 305-pound defensive linemen.
Another player I had a brief chat with is 2015 Cincinnati (OH) St. Xavier linebacker Justin Hilliard. I found it very interesting that he said he hadn't had much contact with Vrabel or area recruiter Kerry Coombs. He said the coach he talks to the most is none other than Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer, who he chats with about once every week.
When Meyer takes over a recruitment, it means Ohio State really wants that player to be a part of the program. While I'm sticking with my pick of Hilliard to Iowa for the time being, I think the Buckeyes are gaining ground in the race for the state of Ohio's top junior with each passing day.
It's important to note that the 6'2 , 225-pound linebacker is from Michigan and moved to Ohio in elementary school. Therefore he doesn't really have a favorite team or a loyalty to any program, though his older brother, CJ, is a member of Iowa's 2014 recruiting class.
Justin Hilliard Junior Highlights
In other news the Buckeyes made the top six for 2015 Jacksonville (FL) Trinity Christian Academy linebacker Jeffery Holland. Ohio State was the only "cold weather" school to make his list of top schools. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, and UCLA.
As per usual, here are my latest picks to complete Ohio State's 2014 class (plus for good measure some key dates to keep an eye on):
1. CB Jermaine Roberts (Texas commit/official visit January 24th)
2. OT Brady Taylor (Virginia Tech commit)
3. TE Mike Gesicki (Penn State commit)
Dropped Solomon Thomas due to Vrabel departure
•January 17th visitors: TE David Njoku, DT Derrick Nnadi, LB Dante Booker Jr., ATH Parris Campbell
•January 24th visitors: CB Jermaine Roberts
•January 31st visitors: DE Malik McDowell, DE Soloman Thomas, ATH Malik Hooker
•February 5th, 2014: National Signing Day (Land-Grant Holy Land will have coverage all day)...
Make no mistake, Miller’s announcement yesterday that he will remain at Ohio State for his senior season is good news for the Buckeyes, who were looking at a minimum of two losses next season if Miller left for the NFL.
Ohio State now stands at least a chance of being selected for the four-team playoff that begins next season. The Buckeyes will need to find a way to win at Michigan State, among other tests, but at least the possibility exists that they could compete for the national championship. That would not have been the case without Miller, a two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year.
But unless Miller improves as a passer, mentally more than mechanically — which is a reverse from a year ago at this time — what you saw this past season is what you’re going to get in 2014.
Granted, Miller’s numbers were impressive. Despite missing nearly three full games because of a sprained knee — durability remains an issue — the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder passed for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns with seven interceptions. More troubling to opposing defenses, Miller also ran for 1,068 yards and 12 scores.
He also excelled at the most important statistic: wins. Ohio State ran up a school-record 24 consecutive wins over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, with Miller starting 22 of them.
Nitpicking those impressive numbers might seem slightly unfair, except that Miller also went 0-2 in the last two games of the season against No. 10 Michigan State and No. 12 Clemson — the only opponents ranked inside the top 15 since the streak began. Miller has just one career win against a top-15 team (vs. No. 15 Wisconsin in 2011).
Does Miller have a “next step” in him, the way Troy Smith improved dramatically from his junior to senior season? I remain skeptical.
“I want to improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game,” Miller said, explaining in part why he chose to return.
I applaud his decision to stay; clearly, he is not ready for the NFL, which tagged him as a mid- to late-round selection. He requires more seasoning, but even then there is no guarantee he will make it as a pro quarterback.
The best quarterbacks are born and not made, which is to say success is tied to their brain’s ability to process information quickly enough to make snap decisions under duress.
It is not an intelligence thing. Plenty of brainiacs who played quarterback could not train their minds to work in “stop-action” — breaking what they see into still shots that must be converted back into real-time performance. Other quarterbacks don’t have a lot going on upstairs but manage to collect rings because things “click” on the field.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson famously said of Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw before Super Bowl XIII, “He couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a.’” Bradshaw responded by leading the Steelers to victory and winning the MVP award.
I’m not saying Miller doesn’t “think fast.” His mind works plenty quick enough to have put up some fairly amazing numbers, including 5,292 passing yards that are within reach of Art Schlichter’s career-record total of 7,547.
It’s more that I wonder whether Miller has reached his ceiling. And if he has, how does that play out for the Buckeyes next year? If Ohio State couldn’t reach the national championship game this season when it had a Swiss-cheese schedule, Carlos Hyde and one of its best offensive lines in the past decade — but also a suspect defense — then how can one expect the team to make the four-team playoff next season, especially when OSU still lacks the top-end receiver necessary to compete for a national title?
It will be a tall order, which means Miller must improve. Can he? It will be interesting to see whether it’s in him. At least now we get the chance.