Ohio State football: Braxton Miller should continue to develop as a passer

Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

Braxton Miller made strides in his passing game from the 2012 season to 2013, but he can – and he must – continue to develop as a passer for his own sake, as well as for the good of the program.

Braxton Miller entered the 2013 season looking like a legitimate Heisman candidate, as well as a player who might be a major factor in the 2014 NFL Draft. Miller has decided to return to Ohio State for his senior season, which gives the team a better shot to achieve their goals in 2014, and also gives Miller the opportunity to boost his draft stock and put himself back in Heisman contention for the coming season.

In comparing Miller's statistics from the 2012 season to the numbers he put up in 2013, you'll see that Miller made some strides in the passing game, although there's not as dramatic of a shift as you might have expected in Miller's stats from his sophomore season to his junior year. In 2012, Miller completed 148 of 254 passes for a completion percentage of 58.3. He threw for a total of 2039 yards and 15 touchdowns, plus six interceptions, in 2012. Miller's legs were a bigger part of the game plan during the 2012 season, as Miller rushed for 1,271 yards on 227 attempts, for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Miller scored 13 rushing touchdowns in 2012.

In 2013, Miller improved his completion percentage to 63.5%, completing 162 of 255 attempts. Miller threw for 2,094 yards, 24 touchdowns, and threw seven interceptions in 2013. Miller did this while playing only two snaps against San Diego State, and missing the entirety of games against Cal and Florida A&M due to injury. Miller still rushed a lot, although his rushing numbers were slightly lower than they were in 2012. Miller rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.

Before the season, Miller stated that his goal was to complete 70% of the passes he attempted in 2013. While a completion percentage of 63.5% was an improvement from 2012, and is certainly respectable, you see a gap between players like Teddy Bridgewater (71%) and Johnny Manziel (69.9%) and Miller. There's a smaller gap between A.J. McCarron (67.3%), Jameis Winston (66.9%) and Blake Bortles (67.8%) and Miller's 2013 performance. Miller's completion percentage is on par with Oregon's Marcus Mariota's 2013 completion percentage. Mariota will likely be hot competition for Miller in the 2015 NFL Draft.

There's a pretty significant gap between Miller and other premiere quarterbacks in terms of passing yards in 2013. Miller's 2,094 passing yards don't stack up well against McCarron's 3,063, Bridgewater's 3,970, Winston's 4,057 or Manziel's 4,114.

Of course, Miller's skill set differs from all of those quarterbacks, as he is so proficient on the ground. Miller had 3,162 yards of total offense in 2013. Miller had significantly more rushing yards than any of these quarterbacks. The closest was Johnny Manziel, with 759 rushing yards.

The other factor is that Miller missed two entire games, and the bulk of a third game, due to injury. If he had played the entirety of those games, and put up yards in each of those games that were consistent with his season average, his projected passing yards for the season would be somewhere around 2,627 passing yards. That would have put Miller a little closer to the top-flight quarterbacks in the NCAA in 2013.

Prior to the season, Miller stated that is goal was to complete 70% of his passes while throwing at least 30 times per game. That didn't happen in 2013. Miller averaged 23 passing attempts per game. It would be beneficial to the Buckeyes offense, and Miller, if Miller could increase his completion percentage to around 70% in 2014, on around 30 attempts per game. Miller's passing conversion rate on third down in 2012 was 48.7% in 2012, and improved to 50.9% in 2013. When you compare that conversion rate with his peers in the 2013 season, it's significantly lower, and another area that Miller should work to improve.

Miller's decision to return to Ohio State for his senior season is best for everyone involved. Continuity at the quarterback position in 2014 is certainly the best case scenario for the program, and it's also in Miller's best interest to continue his development as a passer in the coming season prior to his being selected in the 2015 NFL Draft.

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