When he was told a teammate struck a Heisman pose after he was asked about expectations for the quarterback’s season, Braxton Miller responded with a sheepish chuckle.
The junior Ohio State signal caller then brushed off a question about whether him being a preseason Heisman favorite is discussed much among his peers.
“They don’t talk about it at all,” Miller said, with a smile. “If they see it on ESPN they might mention it to me if they see me walking down the hallway or something, but they don’t really bring it up.”
After being an integral part of an undefeated 2012 Buckeye campaign that saw Miller gain a school record 3,310 total yards of offense, finish fifth in the Heisman voting and be named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, lofty expectations have been hard to avoid.
Coach Urban Meyer has not been shy about expressing his gratification toward his quarterback’s progression in fall camp.
“Braxton’s worked very hard. I’m very impressed,” Meyer said Aug. 11 at OSU Media Day. “Him and (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) Tom Herman (have) got something really special going on right now. You can see it on the field. You can see his maturity.”
That maturity is helping Herman sleep better at night, mainly because of how much better Miller understands the offensive concepts.
“He’s head and shoulders better than he was, and farther ahead,” Herman said after practice Aug. 19. “I’m not saying he’s a finished product by any stretch of the imagination, but he does make coming to work a little bit easier knowing that he is progressing the way that he is.”
The 20-year-old Huber Heights, Ohio, product ran for 1,271 yards last season, finishing fourth in the Big Ten, and putting his body in harm’s way multiple times with mixed results. Miller was banged up a few times throughout the year, most notably during the Purdue game.
At the end of a 37-yard run during the third quarter of OSU’s 29-22 overtime victory, Miller was slammed to the turf, sustaining injuries to his head, neck and shoulder.
He would not return.
Enter in cool as can be then-redshirt junior Kenny Guiton, asked to be the savior to preserve the Buckeyes’ perfect season.
A career backup, Guiton threw an interception in the fourth quarter before rallying the troops for one final drive, tying the game, then winning it in the extra session to run OSU’s record to 8-0.
Guiton said fans thank him from time to time for his efforts in the Purdue game, but would like to give something else back.
“I do get thanked a lot, and it’s pretty crazy because I want to thank Ohio for giving me this opportunity,” he said, referring to getting a chance to play at OSU. “It’s pretty cool to be out and every once in a while someone notices me.”
Guiton said the thought of leaving OSU has popped into head from time to time from being a career backup, but is happy where he’s at and is here to stay.
“Sometimes it comes up in my head, what if, what if I did this or that,” Guiton said. “But I’m here, I’m happy I came here, it’s a lot of fun. I’m happy with everything going on.”
After being asked if he would be comfortable if Guiton needed to take the field in the event that Miller could not play, Herman wasted no time saying “without a doubt,” even though Guiton’s arm may not be as strong as Miller’s.
“The big knock on him was that he had all the intangibles that you could ask for of a leader, of a quarterback, knew the offense inside and out, he’s a coach on the field,” Herman said. “But he just didn’t quite have the quick release and velocity on his ball. He makes up for maybe some of that deficiency with his leadership, his anticipation. He’s a rock in my meeting room.”
Herman said his backup QB would be the starter for “at least” half Division I programs in the country.
“His velocity might hinder his ability to do that but at the same time all those intangibles are something that you can’t overlook,” Herman said. “We’re blessed to have him. I’ve been a lot of places throughout my career that we would have been doing jumping jacks and cartwheels down the hallway if he was our starting quarterback.”
Miller called Guiton his “big brother,” and said their relationship extends beyond the field.
“We got a mutual respect outside of football, too,” Miller said. Referencing when his injury occurred during the Purdue game and he was carted off, Miller said his “big brother” looked him straight in the eye with one message: “I got you, man.”
Herman said he has never asked Guiton if he is frustrated with being the backup, but spoke of a time during fall camp where the QB from Houston was asked how he was going to help the team in 2013.
“He said, ‘I’m going to push No. 5, I’m going to be the best teammate, leader and coach on the field. I’m going to coach No. 5 like I’m a coach,’” Herman said. “It tugs at your heart strings a little bit, how selfless he is.”
Guiton said if he is called on again, he will be ready.
“My mentality is just whenever I get a shot I want to come out on top,” he said. “I want to be able to go out there and keep the offense’s tempo up and do the best things that can keep this offense going.”
Should the chance arise where he would get more crucial playing time like last year, Guiton’s response to the possibility was simple and confident.
“I hope so. We’ll see.”