He went to the mall. Bought a new T-shirt. The most excitement he had was watching Johnny Manziel go nuts in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke.
Manziel's performance -- 455 total yards and five total touchdowns -- couldn't help but inspire his Ohio State counterpart as Miller gets ready for Friday's Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson.
"Everybody is going to be watching so you've got to be prepared to go out there and have fun with it," Miller said. " That's what he was doing. He was having fun."
And like Manziel, Miller could possibly be playing his final college game this bowl season. The junior says he'll decide a few days after the Orange Bowl whether he'll head to the NFL early. He hasn't given any indications of where he's leaning yet, but he said last month that he was getting tired of taking hits as a runner and that he understands Ohio State loses four starting offensive linemen next season.
So the Orange Bowl looms as an important game for Miller. Colleague Andrea Adelson wrote today about how the game could be a legacy-defining moment for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who can add a BCS win to his already-impressive résumé. The same can be said for Miller.
Sure, in some ways, Miller has already built quite a legacy for himself. He's the back-to-back Big Ten offensive player of the year. He has led the Buckeyes to a 24-1 record the past two seasons, including a perfect 12-0 season in 2012. He has beaten Michigan twice in three tries. Unlike Boyd, there were never really questions about whether Miller could win the big game early in his career, as he showed a preternatural ability to come through in clutch moments, like his game-winning touchdown pass to beat Wisconsin as a true freshman.
But Miller also plays for Ohio State, a place that aims for nothing less than championships and huge bowl victories. That's where Miller's portfolio could use some help.
Because of probation, he has played in only one bowl game -- the 2012 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl vs. Florida. The Buckeyes lost that game 24-17. Miller played decently, throwing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, but it was in an offensive slog that characterized much of his freshman year.
Miller has led the Buckeyes to two Leaders Division titles, but of course he lost the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State last month. He ran for 142 yards and two scores but went only 8-of-21 for 101 yards through the air, failed to complete a pass in the fourth quarter and got stuffed on a crucial fourth-and-2 running play. It was one of the few times where he didn't come through late in a crucial game.
Ohio State will need much more than that from its leader against Clemson, especially given the state of its defense right now. He understands that. Teammates said they have noticed Miller taking on a bigger leadership role lately.
"He's definitely been getting on us a little bit more than he has usually," center Corey Linsley said. "You definitely hear his presence more than you have in the past."
"You've got to get guys going," Miller said. "Guys get lazy at times, you've got to pick them up. As the leader I am, I just tell 'em to keep going."
Whether Miller will be staying or going becomes an immediate focus after the game. Head coach Urban Meyer said Thursday he has no idea which way that process will go.
"He's not there yet, but the ceiling is pretty high," Meyer said. "And it's a special place not many guys can go, [but] because he's got just incredible ability, quick release, and fundamentally, when he's on, he's on. So we just need to keep pushing that envelope."
Maybe Miller returns and shoots for a third straight Big Ten offensive MVP trophy, perhaps even a spot in the College Football Playoff. But if this is his last game at Ohio State, he can put himself in the discussion of all-time Buckeyes greats with a memorable final performance.
- The Rose Bowl champions have raised the bar for themselves, and the Michigan State Spartans are now looking at an even bigger prize moving forward.
- The Big Ten has seen plenty of criticism. The Pac-12 has been praised repeatedly. The champ of one league beat the champ of the other in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, and that's good news for the Big Ten.
- Offensive woes doomed Iowa as it struggled to get the critical yardage it needed to sustain drives against LSU in the Outback Bowl.
- Bo Pelini had reason to smile after Nebraska battled the elements and overcame its recent struggles against the SEC to cap an interesting season.
- The hits keep coming for Ohio State this week, which has dealt with everything from injury to suspension to a rainy practice as it prepares for the Discover Orange Bowl.
- The Buckeyes also received word that Christian Bryant's appeal for a medical redshirt was denied, likely ending the career of the senior safety.
- Wisconsin is going to need more playmakers to take the next step, writes Tom Oates after the Capital One Bowl loss for the Badgers.
- Bill O'Brien became the first head coach to leave Penn State for another job since 1915, and a few trustees are recognizing how fortunate they were to have stability for so long.
- Now that the Nittany Lions are in the market for a coach again, these six candidates have emerged as potential targets.
- The early signing of financial-aid agreements and potential mid-year enrollments for six recruits is helping Indiana get the ball rolling into next season.
• Safety Christian Bryant's request for a medical redshirt and an extra year of eligibility has been denied by the NCAA. The senior broke his ankle late in the win over Wisconsin in September. NCAA rules state that a player can compete in no more than 30 percent of a team's games -- bowl games not included -- to be eligible for a medical redshirt. Bryant's injury occurred in Ohio State's fifth game. Meyer said there may be room to appeal the ruling but added "appeals haven’t been real good to the Buckeyes here lately." Ohio State just lost an appeal to the Big Ten over Noah Spence's three-game suspension.
• Speaking of Spence, sophomore Jamal Marcus is poised to take Spence's defensive end spot in Friday's game. Meyer said Marcus has practiced well this week, and the coach is expecting big things out of a guy who played sparingly in the regular season.
"Jamal Marcus is going to be a disruptive guy," Meyer said. "He's one of the more talented guys on our team. I'm anxious to watch him play. We had a staff meeting this morning at 7 a.m. and [defensive line coach] Mike Vrabel made that comment to me. He's a quick-twitch guy. This is his kind of game."
• Linebacker Ryan Shazier is from Fort Lauderdale and will have many friends and family in the Sun Life Stadium stands. Meyer said Shazier, who took over Bryant's No. 2 jersey number after he went down, has also assumed a lot of Bryant's leadership responsibilities.
"He has done a really magical job at that," Meyer said. "He was not a leader a year ago. He was a very good player -- by the end of the year a great player. He's been a very good player this year, but he's done a nice job leading, leading by example, practicing hard and even being more vocal."
• Not surprisingly, Ohio State is using this trip to Florida as a way to recruit. Meyer and his staff plan to visit powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School on Thursday night. That's the same school that produced current Buckeyes standout Joey Bosa.
"I can list at least two dozen high schools right in this area that are loaded with talent," Meyer said. "We have not good relationships but great relationships with these high school coaches. A lot of them came to visit us at a bowl practice.
"We attack it. It's a primary area for us. Because we have so much experience down here, it's nothing new. We know most of these coaches. And the good thing is, people know Ohio State."
• Shazier and quarterback Braxton Miller have big decisions to make about whether to enter the NFL draft. Meyer admitted that NFL decisions have created distractions for teams "hundreds of times." But he said he knows this group of players well enough to spot potential distractions and "I haven't felt that at all. I've had a couple conversations, many about, 'Hey, we'll discuss this afterwards. Let's go win this game.'" Meyer also said he had no idea what to expect from Miller's postgame decision process even though he has a great relationship with the quarterback.
• When asked what young players have stood out during bowl practices -- something Ohio State didn't have the luxury of using last year -- Meyer named the following guys: Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Joshua Perry, Chris Worley, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, Michael Thomas and Billy Price.
• Meyer's most famous former player, Tim Tebow, agreed this week to serve as an analyst on ESPN's new SEC Network this fall. Meyer said he and Tebow still talk frequently, and he hopes the former Heisman Trophy winner hasn't finished playing football yet. Meyer said he's never had a serious conversation about Tebow joining him in some capacity at Ohio State.
"I don't want to disrupt his dream," he said. "His dream is to go play quarterback in the National Football League, and I don't think we're there yet in his mindset that he's done."
I'm interested in your thoughts on the Big Ten's bowl season, Penn State's upcoming coach search and more. See you at noon.
Roby's loss is even bigger than Spence's, because he was the one player in the secondary who was playing at an extremely high level. Now Ohio State could have new starters in three spots when they go to the nickel package against the Tigers' high-scoring passing attack. And Roby would have been the guy to try and stop Clemson star receiver Sammy Watkins.
Instead, Ohio State finds itself playing shorthanded on defense.
"That''s tough," Meyer said. "What's my confidence level? We recruited a lot of them and we coached a lot of them. I have a lot of respect for our players. I'm anxious to see Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell at the safety positions. Josh Perry is one of the most improved players on our team. We've got [Ryan] Shazier. So we've got some very good players."
They just won't have two very important starters on defense.
Fix the defense: The lack of depth was evident even before injuries started taking a toll on the defensive side of the ball, but that really doesn't excuse the breakdowns that popped up frequently at the end of the season. Giving up nearly 260 passing yards per game will never be acceptable at a program that's proud of its defensive tradition, and that weakness in the secondary is a big part of the reason Ohio State is opening 2014 in the Discover Orange Bowl and not playing for the national championship. In recruiting, the Buckeyes have been accumulating the pieces they need to get back to having a complete two-deep capable of playing at a high level and not just a talented group of starters without much support. Making the right hire to replace co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers could be critical in helping that entire unit reach its potential.
Identify leaders: A core group of veterans that included four senior starters on the offensive line made it easy for the Buckeyes to figure out who to follow last season. But with those stalwarts moving on, along with captains such as C.J. Barnett, Philly Brown, Kenny Guiton (and potentially Miller and linebacker Ryan Shazier, if they leave early for the NFL draft), there will be a significant void to fill. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett could be at the front of the pack to become the voice and face of the program, but he's going to need some help -- and the sooner the Buckeyes find out where it's coming from, the better off they'll be as they head into offseason workouts.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- We now know for sure that Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence won't play in Friday's Discover Orange Bowl. He won't play again until the Buckeyes' third game of 2014, in fact.
The team announced Wednesday morning that Spence has been suspended three games by the Big Ten for violating an unspecified conference rule. The suspension begins with the bowl game and includes the first two games of next year, at Navy and vs. Virginia Tech.
It's unquestionably a big loss for the Buckeyes, as Spence led the team with eight sacks, finishing second in the league in that category. He also had 14.5 tackles for loss and is as quick coming off the edge as any player in the Big Ten. His pass-rushing ability will really be missed against Clemson, which has an explosive passing attack. If Ohio State can't generate some pressure on Tajh Boyd, its battered secondary will be hard-pressed to get stops.
The emergence of true freshman Joey Bosa as a star at defensive end mitigates Spence's absence somewhat. Bosa was incredibly disruptive in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State and had 6.5 sacks this season. Jamal Marcus and Steve Miller have been splitting reps at Spence's defensive end spot in practice this week.
We don't know what rule Spence broke and it would be reckless to speculate. Ohio State did mention in its release that Spence was an academic all-Big Ten selection who would continue working on his degree next semester, so this does not sound like it was related to academics. The league also likely would not have stepped in on a criminal matter, and there was no on-the-field reason for the suspension, like fighting. Ohio State said Spence's parents disagreed with the league's ruling and penalty and that the school assisted in exhausting the appeals process with the conference, which is why Spence's status has been up in the air all week. (A cynic might say the Big Ten got burned the last time it went to bat for Ohio State players in a BCS bowl game. See: the Tattooed 5, 2011 Sugar Bowl).
So make of that what you will.
For now, the Buckeyes will have to find ways to make up for Spence's production over their next three games, all of which are against good teams.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Ohio State sophomore defensive end Noah Spence has been suspended three games, starting with Friday's Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson, for violating an unspecified Big Ten rule.
The Buckeyes announced the suspension on Wednesday morning and said Spence and his parents did not agree with the ruling by the conference. Ohio State and the Spence family then spent time "exhausting the appeals process that was available to them with the Big Ten," the statement read.
"I was disappointed that the appeal didn't go through," coach Urban Meyer said after Wednesday's practice. "Noah's one of my favorite players. ... We'll move forward."
Spence did not travel to Florida with the Buckeyes, and Meyer had said Spence was dealing with a personal issue. Spence, an all-Big Ten selection, finished second in the conference with eight sacks and had 14.5 tackles for losses among his 52 total tackles.
Spence will be able to practice with the team in the spring, but he will not be eligible to play until Ohio State's third game of 2014 season, which comes Sept. 13 against Kent State. The Buckeyes' first two games are at Navy and against Virginia Tech at home.
This week, the two-sport star, who will run track and play football on the next level, talked about the ins and outs of his recruitment as decision day nears.
Gerry Hamilton: What age were you when you first started paying attention to college football?
Tony Brown: As soon as I saw a TV. I think I watched a Texas Tech game because both of my parents went to Texas Tech. My uncle also went to Texas Tech. I had to be five years old when I actually remember watching a game.
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The Ohio State running back brought up the Discover Orange Bowl record for rushing yards on Tuesday, saying he thought it was 226. It's actually 206 yards, accomplished by Nebraska's Ahman Green in 1998 vs. Tennessee. But the point remains the same: Hyde wants to own that record at the conclusion of Friday night's game against Clemson.
That didn't happen, but Hyde still finished with 1,408 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. How many yards would he have rushed for had he played the whole season?
"There's no telling," he said. "I think I would have gotten close to 2,000."
And would that have earned him a place in New York for the Heisman ceremony?
"I probably would have got [the trophy]," Hyde says, laughing.
Hyde doesn't think any defense can stop him, and he's got a point. The Big Ten's Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year gained at least 100 yards in his final eight games and topped 200 twice. He had 226 yards in the regular-season finale against Michigan, which is maybe why that number stuck in his head. Hyde said his favorite moment of the year was his 19-yard, pinball-style touchdown run against Iowa. He likes to replay that on YouTube and said he watched it again as recently as Sunday.
Yet, in Ohio State's Big Ten championship game loss to Michigan State, Hyde received just 18 carries and none in the fourth quarter. He was noticeably upset about it after the game, telling reporters that he felt like he could have done more. The Buckeyes went with Braxton Miller on a keeper on the key play of the game, a fourth-and-2 from the Michigan State 39-yard line. The Spartans' Denicos Allen stopped Miller a yard short of the first down.
"It definitely ate at me," Hyde said. "Me and the offensive line, we knew we could have had a lot more success in the running game. But I can't really question the coaches' calling."
Hyde said he asked Urban Meyer for the ball before that fourth-down play.
"I forget what the answer was," he said. "It was a good call, though. The guy [Allen] just made a good play."
Hyde hopes to be a bigger factor against Clemson, which ranked No. 51 in rush defense this season. The Tigers gave up some big days to backs like Georgia's Todd Gurley (154 yards on just 12 carries) and Syracuse's Jerome Smith (125). But they also held national rushing champion Andre Williams of Boston College to just 70 yards on 24 attempts.
Clemson safety Robert Smith said Hyde reminds him of Williams, only "a little more elusive and a little bigger." Linebacker Stephone Anthony sees some Gurley in Hyde's style.
"It's close, because Gurley is a creature, and Carlos Hyde is a creature," Anthony said. "We're going to have to show up. You've got to bring all you've got."
Hyde said he "prays it will be a run-heavy game" on Friday and that 25-to- 30 carries would be ideal. And that might be Ohio State's best chance to win this one, as its defense has struggled down the stretch and now is dealing with some key absences and injuries going against a high-powered Clemson passing attack.
"They have some explosive guys on the other side of the ball and can score points really fast," Hyde said. "So we want to keep the ball in our hands a lot. If it comes down to where it's like a shootout and a lot of points are scored, then it might not be that good for us. You want to control the clock to keep their offense off the field."
Clemson's defenders are wary of trying to bring down the 235-pound Hyde, especially as the game wears on and if it's a humid night in Florida.
"You can't expect him not to break a tackle, because that’s what he's done all year," Smith said. "That's the type of back he is, and he expects to break a tackle. We've got to swarm to the ball."
This game represents a homecoming of sorts for Hyde. Born and raised in Cincinnati, his mother sent him to live with his grandparents in Naples, Fla., at the age of 15 to escape the violence of his neighborhood. Hyde played only two years of high school football but was still a blue-chip recruit who said he had offers from every major Florida school. He left his college choice up to his mom, who preferred he return closer to home at Ohio State.
Hyde went to Fork Union Military Academy for a year after high school to shore up his grades. He still has many friends in the south Florida area and says he likes to spend his free time hanging out with buddies in Fort Lauderdale. If he couldn't have made it to Pasadena for the national title game, this is the next best thing.
"I mean I could have asked for a better way [to go out]," he said, "but this is not bad. Being back home in Florida is not a bad way to end my career."
An Orange Bowl rushing record could provide the perfect ending.
LB Williams: Law and order equals '98 percent'
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But Meyer said later on Monday that “there was no truth” to the rumors he’d offered Morris the job and claimed to not have any idea where those reports came from.
“I’m going to have to ask Chad: ‘Did you start that?’” Meyer joked.
Whatever the case, this much is true: Meyer and the third-year Clemson play-caller share a mutual admiration. And when their teams face one another in Friday’s Discover Orange Bowl, you’ll see a lot of similarities in the two offenses.
Morris was still a high school coach in Texas when he got to know Meyer. The relationship started when Meyer recruited some of Morris’ players while at Utah. When Meyer went to Florida, Morris took his high school coaching staff to Gainesville one offseason to gather information about the spread offense.
During Meyer’s year off from coaching in 2011, he called a handful of Clemson games as an ESPN analyst. Meyer wisely used his time off to learn from other coaches, including Morris.
“You know Coach Meyer,” Morris said. “He’s definitely always looking to try to find something that separates him offensively. He’s an offensive mind. So he would come out and watch our practice. After practice, we’d sit and talk for a while.”
Morris said he and Meyer struck up a conversation once about how Clemson was using tight end Dwayne Allen. That led to near-weekly talks on the phone about a tight end’s role in the offense.
“I remember watching the transformation from the previous offense to his [at Clemson],” Meyer said. “It was almost overnight. They were doing a great job.”
This past spring, two members of Ohio State offensive staff -- including the coordinator Meyer did hire, Tom Herman -- spent about three days visiting Clemson to exchange ideas. Herman, who spent several years coaching in Texas earlier in his career, knows Morris well.
“I wouldn't say we're best buddies,” Herman said. “We don't go on vacation together or anything like that, but we do spend a lot of time talking football over the phone. It has been a very good, productive working relationship.”
Both Herman and Morris have frequently been mentioned as future head coaches, and with the success of other former offensive coordinators like Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, it’s easy to see why. Of course, neither needs to settle for just any job. Morris is already being paid like a head coach. When a reporter started a question to Herman about both coordinators being on “the cutting edge” of offense, Herman cracked: “Him more than me, if you look at his paycheck.” (Herman makes $550,000 at Ohio State).
Morris said when he and Herman went to dinner in the offseason, they joked about potentially meeting up in a bowl game. And so it came to pass, as two teams that share a lot of offensive principles are about to find out which one works better.
Clemson averaged 40.2 points per game this season, while Ohio State scored 46.3 points per contest. The Buckeyes are a run-heavy team, while the Tigers tilt far more toward the passing game. That’s mostly because that’s where each team’s true strengths lie, as Clemson has Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, while Ohio State has Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.
But as far as formations, shifting, motions and tempo go, they’re a lot alike.
“We have a lot of common ground,” said Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warriner. “Especially in the spread things we do in the passing and running games.”
Morris said he didn’t give away all his secrets when Herman visited. In college football, many offenses use the same basic concepts.
“It's funny,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We say it all the time in our meeting. It's not just them. It's a lot of these offenses that you're seeing. You watch the 49ers with [Colin] Kaepernick. It's like all these boys went to the same retreat, the same clinic and they’re stealing ball plays from each other."
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And whether Meyer and Morris came close to working together or not, their offenses flatter each other.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State Begin Spring Drills
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35