Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Ohio State spring predictions: No. 4
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Preparations to end a two-game losing streak have already started for Ohio State, but the chance to make them with the pads on again after a two-month wait isn't over yet.
There's still a week left until spring practice, and given the disappointing end to the 2013 season and the rigorous offseason conditioning program the Buckeyes have been going through, that time surely can't fly by quickly enough for them. We've already looked at players facing critical springs and key positional battles, and to count down these final few days before camp opens, we'll make a handful of predictions for what should go down in March and April as Ohio State reloads for another run at a title in the fall.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller must improve his passing this spring.
The trend is easy to identify on the stat sheet, and the improvements Miller has made as a passer have been hard to ignore over the last three seasons.
The numbers at the end of his junior campaign, though, made it just as clear that Ohio State's signal-caller isn't yet a finished product, leaving him more room to grow when camp opens in March and continuing well after the spring game. And while the minor shoulder surgery that was performed last week will limit him during workouts, it might also be a benefit for him during a camp that was always going to emphasize improvements on the mental side of the game.
His physical performances in March and April have been useful in monitoring his development as a passer, and it was another breakout performance in the spring game a year ago that provided an early sign he was ready to jump from a 58-percent passer to a guy capable of completing 64 percent of his throws. There were similar signs the year before that during the spring after posting a completion percentage of 54 percent as a freshman, and that upward trend makes it easy for the Buckeyes to get excited about what he might be capable of doing as a senior.
Miller's legs are always going to make life difficult for opposing defenses, and by all accounts the coaching staff doesn’t question the talent in his arm. But it's taking his ability to read defenses, know the offense inside and out and make consistently intelligent decisions up one more level that may truly allow the spread offense to keep even the most elite teams off-balance, which the Buckeyes couldn't do enough in the Big Ten championship against Michigan State as their national-title hopes collapsed in the fourth quarter.
Taking the aerial attack to a higher gear isn't his responsibility alone, of course, and Ohio State will have to plug holes on the offensive line and find a few new weapons at wide receiver as part of the process. But the center of attention will always be Miller, and even while watching he should have a chance to grow and focus on the part of the game that has the most room for improvement.