Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
From the moment Urban Meyer accepted the head-coaching job at Ohio State, people were buzzing about how the new coach and OSU’s incumbent quarterback, Braxton Miller, would be a perfect fit.
It seemed only natural.
Meyer was known for his spread offense that has the quarterback act as a playmaker first and a thrower second, and Miller was known for his playmaking ability.
At OSU’s Spring Game Saturday, more than 81,000 fans got a first glimpse at the quarterback and coach in action together at Ohio Stadium.
Miller, a rising sophomore, completed 24-31 passes for 258 yards as he led his Scarlet team to a 20-14 victory against the Gray.
The pass-happy offense was a stark contrast to what Buckeye fans saw last season when Miller only completed more than 10 passes in a game once – 14 in OSU’s loss to Michigan – all of last season.
Miller hit receivers on quick screens, crossing patterns and back-shoulder throws; all routes that were scarce in the 2011 passing game.
The Scarlet team only ran the ball 23 times, but seven of those rushes were touch sacks on Miller, whom the defense wasn’t allowed to tackle.
The heavy passing game is something Meyer said not to get accustomed to.
“We’re going to be a very balanced offense. (Saturday’s offense) was very imbalanced. However that was done for a reason,” Meyer said. “What we don’t know, and unfortunately even after the Spring Game I still don’t know, is can we throw the ball? That was the objective today.”
The offense’s quickened pace, however, is something that is here to stay. Both teams used a no-huddle offense and instead received signals from the sidelines to get the team up to the line of scrimmage and ready to go as quickly as possible.
On the game’s first possession, Miller led the Scarlet team on an eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive in just 2:17.
But afterward, the players said their play was slow compared to what they’ve been doing in practice.
“We didn’t even go that fast today,” said rising redshirt junior Kenny Guiton, who played quarterback for the Gray team.
Miller agreed the play was “kind of slow,” but said the no-huddle offense is something that puts him in his element.
“It’s just like high school back at (Wayne High School),” Miller said. “It’s all signals, get the ball in and just make the best plays you can.”
A lot of those plays were made by Michael Thomas, an early enrollee freshman wide receiver.
Thomas, who is cousins with former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson, hauled in half (12) of Miller’s completions and garnered 131 receiving yards.
The reception total is just two catches shy of the season-high from last year.
Meyer called Thomas OSU’s “most dedicated receiver right now,” and said he’s always on the jug-machine catching balls before and after practice.
“He should still be getting ready for his high school prom and graduation and all that,” Meyer said. “Right now, him and (rising junior Philly Brown) are kind of separated. They’re kind of the top two (receivers).”
Most people didn’t expect Thomas to have such an immediate impact, but Miller was hardly surprised. He said he’s been working closely with Thomas all spring.
“We work all the time in weight room,” Miller said. “I pick him up. We go in there, workout, watch film and go catch some balls. He’s just kind of growing up.”
Meyer said Miller has developed during the spring, and despite throwing an interception and getting sacked seven times Saturday, Miller has been impressive.
After the game, Meyer graded his signal caller.
He gave Miller’s release an ‘A,’ his arm strength a ‘B’ and his accuracy a ‘C’ to a ‘B.’
But he said he was “very critical” and graded his guys compared to some of his previous players that were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Miller said Saturday’s offense only showcased about 30 percent of the playbook because many players are still getting used to Meyer’s new system.
They’ll have until Sept. 1 to master it when OSU opens its season against Miami (Ohio).
But the Spring Game on Saturday was enough for Miller, who thanked all the fans for coming out to support the team.
“It was fun,” Miller said. “It was competitive so it got the crowd into it.”