Commentary

Under pressure

Ohio State-bound QB Braxton Miller prepares to play early

Originally Published: January 3, 2011
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pressure. The big stage of college football. It's what all the Under Armour All-Americans live for and for one, Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne QB Braxton Miller (Huber Heights, Ohio/Wayne), it might happen sooner rather than later. Miller is an Ohio State commit who will enroll early in Columbus and with the future of current starter Terrelle Pryor up in the air, the door is open for Miller to play immediately. Pryor, who has said he will return for his senior season, will serve a five-game suspension to open the 2011 season and could still conceivably leave for the NFL draft.

"I am not redshirting. Coach [Jim Tressel] told me that," Miller said. "I just need to go in, learn the system and get the hang of it. They will make the choices. I just need to work hard."

Back in Class of 2008, Pryor was one of the most coveted prospects in the nation. Miller has drawn comparisons to Pryor, but some think he can make more of an impact on the Buckeyes than Pryor has in his time in Columbus.

"My feeling about Braxton Miller is that he's the most important quarterback pickup [for Ohio State] in the last decade," said ESPN Recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert. "Terrelle Pryor was highly coveted because of his athleticism. He's developed some as a quarterback but he's not a hot commodity as an NFL QB because he has some limitations at that position. Braxton can bring a similar level of athleticism, although Terrelle Pryor is a freak, but Braxton can do more as a passer at a younger stage. If he can handle it mentally, he has the physical tools of a QB and the running element. Early on in his career, he can do more in the passing game."

That's high praise and the comparison to Pryor is humbling to Miller. But Miller's high school coach, Jay Minton, can see why the comparisons are made.

"I think they have so much in common," Minton said. "Braxton is a lot like Terrelle Pryor in that he's athletic but just not as much. So in my opinion the eventual change in quarterbacks won't be that extreme.

"Physically, I think he's ready. How will he handle things mentally will determine a lot next season."

For Miller, it was a fairly easy decision to pick the Buckeyes. Recruiting is about relationships and he's had one with Tressel and the Ohio State staff for a long time.

"I was at the eighth-grade camp and actually went to the senior camp. They noticed me then and knew I was in eighth grade," Miller said. "The connection started there.

"They [Ohio State coaches] are cool people. I can call anytime and ask questions. Me and the QB coach [Nick Siciliano] are cool. I got more connection with them than any other college."

For Minton, he noticed Miller at an early stage of his high school career and knew right then Miller was something special.

"Yeah, I knew about him as a freshman," Minton said. "It was the first time he walked on campus. We knew he just had an unlimited amount of potential. He could have played running or receiver. Braxton was that good. Over the years he has really developed. Even this season he has made so much progress."

While Miller certainly has his share of great attributes, he knows that he has much to work on once he gets to the next level.

"I need more [work] management. Accuracy is one point I need to work on," he said. "I have to get in the weight room and get bigger and stronger. Ball control, no turnovers and learn the system. I have to be a manager.

"I want to be a perfect passer," he said. "That's what I am working at."

In the meantime, Miller is working hard during Under Armour Game practices and soaking up the chance to compete against some of the best recruits in the nation.

"This is an opportunity you work hard for. It's a chance to come with all the guys around the world, show what you have and meet new people," Miller said. "You have to bring more intensity and I have to do better than I did playing in high school. This is like college for real and the athletes are unbelievable.

"It will help out a lot. I am getting the hang of it now. Everything is fast. Every level gets faster."

The stage is set for Miller and it's about to get bigger. Much bigger. Sometime this spring he will be practicing in an Ohio State uniform. The big question is will Terrelle Pryor be his teammate? If he is, that might make this transition a little easier for Miller, learning and watching the elder and more experienced Pryor.

"Yeah, that would be great," he said, "but you never know."

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.