COLUMBUS — One yard. How do you turn a 1-yard run into a highlight video?
If you’re Braxton Miller, you can do it.
Ohio State’s quarterback has made many memorable, sometimes unbelievable plays in his two seasons as the Buckeyes’ starter.
They began with his scrambling game-winning 40-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith in the final minute to beat Wisconsin his freshman year.
Last season, he had a 65-yard touchdown run against Miami of Ohio where he put a dazzling stutter step on the last defender between him and the end zone. He made two defenders miss badly on his way to a 55-yard TD run against California and had a 72-yard non-scoring run against Nebraska where he left several frustrated defenders flailing behind him.
But it is a 1-yard touchdown run against Penn State last season that is the ultimate Miller play. So far, at least.
With OSU at Penn State’s 1-yard line, Miller started to hand off to tailback Carlos Hyde, but with a defender already in Hyde’s face, he kept the ball, stepped to his right, stepped back to avoid a tackle, then dived over the goal line for a touchdown.
He is the undisputed leader in the Big Ten in creating video highlights. But it wasn’t until recently that he added being a team leader to what he does.
Miller has always been humble, OSU coach Urban Meyer says. But now he is mixing in some heat with the humility.
“He has changed a lot as far as his demeanor, as far as his approach toward other people, as far as his leadership,” Meyer said at the Big Ten Football Media Days last week. “But what hasn’t changed is his humble approach.”
A few days after Ohio State’s spring game, offensive coordinator Tom Herman talked about how Miller doesn’t fit the expected off-field profile of a big-time quarterback.
“This is a first for me. Usually at that position there has always been kind of an alpha male attitude a little bit. But Braxton is the best player on the football field and you wouldn’t know it if he was walking next to you in the hallway,” Herman said.
Miller acknowledges he is becoming more of a vocal leader. ““You always look at the quarterback to lead the team,” he said.
After a 12-0 season last year, where Ohio State fans expect Miller to lead this year’s team is to a national championship.
Easy to say. Not as easy to do. Ohio State would probably have to go undefeated again to win the national title.
If the Buckeyes do raise the big trophy over their heads at the end of the season, that would mean they were on a 26-game winning streak. The school record is 22 wins in a row.
That kind of season could also make Miller one of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy race after finishing fifth in the voting last season.
Miller downplayed the Heisman talk, saying “It’s a blessing to be in the same talk as Archie (Griffin), Eddie (George) and Troy (Smith). It’s unbelievable where I was, where I was in high school and where I am now.”
But when he was asked where his trophies from growing up and from high school at Huber Height Wayne are, he said his parents have a room in their house where they are displayed.
“There’s a lot of stuff. But there’s a lot of room for more,” he said.
Meyer’s theme for getting a lot more out of this year’s team after last year’s undefeated run is to label the season as “The Chase.” As in chasing perfection, chasing a Big Ten title and chasing a national title.
To reach those goals, Miller will have to leave defenders chasing him from behind again.
Unlike his decision to become more of a leader, not all of those sprints to the end zone are planned. He admits that sometimes even he can’t explain why or how he made a move to make a defender miss.
“When it’s go time, I feel like a different person. I feel like that beast is going to come out when I walk down that tunnel,” he said.