How Clemson can contain Miller

'Spy' game could help Tigers slow the Buckeyes' dynamic QB

Updated: January 3, 2014, 8:00 PM ET
By Todd McShay | ESPN Insider

Braxton MillerAndrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Tigers can't let Miller escape into the open field at the Orange Bowl.

This year's Discover Orange Bowl features a pair of dynamic offenses in the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and the player who figures to play a particularly key role in the outcome of the game is Buckeyes dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller.

It's easy to sit back as an analyst and say "you have to bottle up Braxton Miller and force him to beat you from inside the pocket," but it's another thing as a defense to actually do it. As a passer, Miller has good arm strength and release quickness. He flashes the ability to make some jaw-dropping throws on the move. He has also shown improvement this season with his patience in the pocket, doing a much more consistent job of keeping his eyes downfield while sliding within the pocket instead of tucking and running at the first sign of trouble.

But make no mistake, what makes him particularly difficult to prepare for is his special ability to extend plays and create positive yards off of broken plays with his legs. He is one of the most dangerous running QBs in college football. That's why, week in and week out, opponents do all they can to force Miller to beat them with his arm from inside the pocket.

But in their Big Ten championship game win over Ohio State, the Michigan State Spartans provided clear evidence of how a defense can contain Miller's running ability and force him to make plays from the pocket. Clemson is not Michigan State on defense. That's fairly clear. So I'm not saying that the Tigers can execute this plan with anywhere close to the same efficiency. But with the extra time to prepare, it would be crazy not to use this tape as a guide for the type of gap discipline and unselfish play that is required to slow down Ohio State's potent offense. After all, of the 16 times that Michigan State was able to keep Miller inside the pocket on called pass plays in the Big Ten title game, Miller completed just three of 13 attempts and was sacked three times.

Let's take a look at the blueprint Clemson could (and should) follow as it attempts to slow down Miller and the Buckeyes' offense.


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