Ohio State's John Simon, Braxton Miller named best of the B1G
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 22:11
The accolades just keep coming for members of the Ohio State football team.
A day after being named first-team All-Big Ten by the media, sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and senior defensive end John Simon were recognized as the Big Ten Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively, on Tuesday.
The award comes three days after OSU completed its undefeated season by defeating Michigan 26-21.
Miller, who was also named the Greise-Brees Quarterback of the Year for the Big Ten, joins elite Buckeye company in being honored as the Big Ten’s Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year. Former OSU greats Eddie George, Orlando Pace and Troy Smith are the only other Buckeyes to have received the award, established in 1990.
Simon sat out the Michigan game with a knee injury, ending his streak of 37 consecutive starts, but his nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss were enough to earn him the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year in addition to being named the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year.
“It means a lot to win this award,” Simon said in a release. “It is truly a great honor, but first and foremost it is a team award. I wouldn’t be given this award if it weren’t for the great play of my teammates … great coverage in the back end and guys taking up blocks on the front end. I praise those guys for helping me get this and that is what it is all about.”
Coach Urban Meyer has called Simon “the heart and soul” of his team and said the awards are well-deserved.
“I think everyone knows how highly I think of John Simon,” Meyer said of the two-time OSU captain in a release. “He is absolutely one of the finest young men I have had the privilege to coach. His determination and effort and selfless approach are second to none, and there is no better player or person to be honored with this player of the year award.”
OSU’s coach was complimentary of his quarterback as well.
“Winning this award is quite an achievement for this young man because he can still get better,” Meyer said. “I am happy for him and very proud. This is a terrific honor for a Buckeye to receive.”
In his opening season at the helm of Meyer’s offense, Miller thrived while propelling OSU to a 12-0 record — the school’s first undefeated mark since 2002.
The sophomore quarterback set a Buckeyes’ record for total offense, throwing for 2,039 yards while running for 1,271, surpassing the former mark of 3,290 yards that was set by former OSU quarterback Bobby Hoying in 1995.
Miller had 28 touchdowns on the season, the most by an OSU quarterback since 2006, when Smith, a Heisman Trophy winner, had 31.
“I’m appreciative of everything that went down this year,” Miller said Tuesday. “The work we put in in the offseason with coach Mick (Mickey Marotti), it paid off at the end. So I’m pretty appreciative of that.”
After a dismal 6-7 season in 2011 that saw Miller and the Buckeye offense put up about 25 points per game, OSU exploded in 2012.
Led by Miller, the Buckeyes averaged 37.1 points a game in 2012, a figure that ranked best in the Big Ten.
The sophomore quarterback seemed to improve greatly from his freshman campaign, too. He threw for 880 more yards, upped his rushing total by 556 and got in the end zone eight more times, in just three more starts.
Miller attributes most of his growth to the new coaching staff, specifically Meyer and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman.
“Coach Meyer and coach Herman, they helped me a lot since (freshman year),” Miller said. “A lot of things outside of football (too), I learned a lot.”
Miller said he got stronger and faster in the offseason, but the sophomore quarterback didn’t truly realize how much better he and the rest of the Buckeyes had gotten until the Nebraska game Oct. 6.
OSU blew past the Huskers at Ohio Stadium, 63-38, with Miller accounting for 313 yards of offense and two touchdowns.
“It was crazy. The first night game, I believe, the guys were hyped and everybody was excited to get out there (in front of) the home stands and just light it up,” Miller said.
Following that performance, Miller started to receive serious Heisman consideration from the media. He said he never really paid attention to it, though, besides the occasional teasing from his teammates.
“I heard (Heisman talk) a few times, in the front side of the season. I didn’t really pay attention to it. The guys, they always make a joke about it and see it on TV,” Miller said.
Since then, the talk of Miller holding the bronze trophy has quieted, with Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, or “Johnny Football,” emerging as the favorite.
Miller said he’s seen Manziel play, and that the two young quarterbacks have a similar style of play. Regarding the nickname, Miller said, “it’s smooth.”
But does Miller need a nickname to compete with the Aggies’ star?
“I don’t know about a nickname,” Miller said.
Miller’s first name, Braxton, seems to stand on its own fairly well.
“The only person that I know (named Braxton) was one the Jamie Foxx show, the dude, ‘Braxton.’ He’s the only one I know,” Miller said.
Nickname or not, Miller’s head coach said there is plenty of room for him to improve next season.
“Our quarterback fundamentally, he wasn’t the best fundamental quarterback in America,” Meyer said in his postseason news conference Monday.
Miller agrees, saying he needs to improve on his footwork, which is “jittery” at times, along with his passing mechanics.
But when he does get technically sound, OSU’s offense — the best in the Big Ten this season — and its quarterback could be even scarier.
“I still have no idea where his ceiling is. Pocket awareness, comfort, just the fundamentals of throwing the ball, I don’t see the ceiling yet. He’s got that much further to go,” Meyer said. “Braxton, if he becomes fundamentally the best quarterback in America, I think he will be the best quarterback in America. It will be comical what he’ll do.”