COLUMBUS: Braxton Miller has enjoyed a bountiful 2012 awards run, all things considered, even though he finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy race. After helping the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record, Miller, Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback, was named the winner of the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football, which goes annually to the Big Ten’s outstanding player. He was named the Big Ten offensive player of the year, and he made the first team on the all-conference team picked by the media.
After setting the school record for total yards in a season (3,310) and becoming just the third Big Ten quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,271) in a year, he was one of three finalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel won it this year.
That all came after a season in which Miller underachieved, said first-year coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks coach Tom Herman and even Miller himself.
“The potential I have, I haven’t really reached all the things I can accomplish yet,” Miller said.
Herman seconded that motion.
“He is probably going to hate me for saying anything, but in my opinion, any time you are capable of one thing and you achieve something less than that, that’s called underachieving,” Herman said. “So he didn’t always play to his capabilities.
“Is it encouraging that his capabilities are still out there, and that myself as his coach and him as the player can continue to work toward him playing up to those capabilities every single snap? Yeah, that’s immensely exciting.”
It’s the challenge Meyer intends to put before Herman headed into spring drills in March. Like Herman, Meyer believes the dual-threat Miller is capable of so much more, but only if the fundamentals of the position become routine.
“Our quarterback fundamentally wasn’t the best fundamental quarterback in America, so Tom Herman and I are going to have a chat — why didn’t that happen?” Meyer said. “He did great work in other areas. Tom Herman did a fabulous job. But Tom Herman and Braxton Miller understand that they have to get better.
“If he becomes fundamentally the best quarterback in America, I think he will be the best quarterback in America. I think it will be comical what he’ll do.”
Herman called that a fair assessment.
“In terms of reflection on the year that’s just past, I don’t know that you can say anything other than he didn’t play to his potential,” Herman said.
Just under a year ago, Herman inherited a quarterback who, for the most part, winged it as a freshman after he was thrust into the starting role during a 6-7 campaign in 2011.
“I would say that he was just a big lump of clay, and that we started molding it, but haven’t even come close to finishing the product,” Herman said. “We’ve kind of seen what’s available there and what he’s capable of doing, but we need to see it more consistently.”
An example Herman cited: more disciplined footwork when Miller passes, to the point that it becomes second nature. Miller’s big gains could come in passing, where he completed a middling 58 percent for just 2,039 yards. In contrast, Manziel ran for 1,181 yards and passed for 3,419.
Some of Miller’s passing problems could be traced to a fledgling receiving corps, but some of them were due to his being hesitant and sloppy at times.
“When he focuses on his footwork, he is really good as a passer, as evidenced by his game against the team up north [Michigan] and the Illinois game, in which his completion percentage was really good,” Herman said. “But when he didn’t consciously focus on that, it was a train wreck.
“So I think his task this offseason is to make it such that perfect footwork is so ingrained in his passing mechanics that he doesn’t need to think about it and he can worry about other parts of his game and other parts of the game.”
As far as intangibles, Miller said Meyer helped “bring out the leader in me” this season, but Herman said that is still in the sprout stage.
“Braxton is a great leader on Saturdays,” Herman said. “He needs to become that same kind of leader Sunday through Friday.
“I mean, the kid is a model citizen; I don’t want that to be misconstrued. It’s just that, as they always say, the great leaders make those around him better, and that’s what we need him to start doing, making the guys around him better.”