If there were any doubt about whether former Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller could make an impact at his new hybrid H-back/wide receiver position, it evaporated early in the Buckeyes’ opening game against Virginia Tech. His first catch came on a ball thrown low by starting quarterback Cardale Jones. Miller had to dive for the ball and cradle it in his hands before it hit the turf.
From there, Buckeye possessions became the Braxton Miller show, which is no small feat when you’re playing alongside otherworldly talent like Jones and running back Ezekiel Elliot. Miller caught a touchdown pass early in the third quarter after beating his man on a post pattern, but the best was still to come.
On Ohio State’s ensuing possession, Miller lined up in the shotgun, took the snap and ran sideways to his left. Once he found an opening, he darted forward into the hole. Ahead of him were two VT defenders barreling down on him from the right. As they closed in, Miller spun 360 degrees, sending the two defenders zooming past him and leaving nothing but sweet green grass in front of him as he sped to the end zone. It was a move straight out of Madden. Commentator Kirk Herbstreit remarked that it was like Miller had just pressed “the B button.”
How did Miller go from odd QB out to the most explosive athlete on a team replete with explosive athletes? Miller’s Instagram account provides some clues. It looks like he made heavy use of an elevation mask to improve his conditioning, something he needs to run effectively on almost every down.
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He’s also been working on his hands and catching ability, as is evident in a few videos that show him catching six balls in a row while holding on to each successive ball.
Also, Miller was said to have participated in secretive night workouts with Jones and his fellow quarterback J. T. Barrett, during which Miller asked both QBs to throw to him as he practiced and perfected his routes. He also spent hours with the JUGS machine, going through the sometimes mundane repetition of simply catching footballs.
“Yeah that guy is weird, man,” Jones told Fox Sports. “He’d call you up at like 8:30, 9 o’clock and be like, ‘Hey you wanna come throw?’ and I’d be like, ‘Not really, but yeah.’”
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As was clear from his two years manning the quarterback position, Miller was already fast—before a torn labrum caused him to lose the entire 2014 college football season, and ultimately his job as the Buckeyes’ starting signal caller. A plaque inside Ohio State’s training facility says that Miller once ran a 4.32 40-Yard Dash. That’s freaky fast.
It appears that Miller’s off-season conditioning, route running and skill work will pay off in a bigger way than even he could have imagined.
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