clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Taking a closer look at Braxton Miller's position change

The best athlete in college football has decided to score touchdowns from a different position. Will it work?

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

The college football landscape trembled last Thursday night when the former two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Braxton Miller told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel, that he was taking his name out of the three-headed quarterback competition and changing positions to H-back for his final season in Columbus.

Here are a few things that have been effected by Miller's decision:

1. This is the perfect fit for Miller's attributes and his health

The Wayne High School product stands at 6'2, 215 pounds and has been clocked in the 4.3, 40-yard dash range at Ohio State. His lateral quickness and creativity in the open field are unmatched in college football. With two labrum surgeries done on his shoulder in the past two years, he may never be the same quarterback that destroyed the Big Ten from 2011 to 2013.

This is the right move for Miller's skill-set, current health situation and for the team as a whole.

When Miller is on the field, the offense will immediately have another home run threat. As most know, when Miller gets into space, there is a good chance of him taking it to pay dirt. "It's going to be electric," Miller said to Thamel. "We had a great season last year, but we didn't see anyone do off-the-wall type stuff. I'm sure guys miss seeing an explosive, 60-yard shake-and-bake run every once in a while."

So how will his 4.3 speed be used?

First, look at how the other H-backs have been used in Urban Meyer's offense. Other than just running routes and catching passes like a wide receiver, he will get the ball in a variety of ways. He will be used in jet-motion across the line of scrimmage and get end-arounds, or use him as a decoy in play-action to make the defense flow to Miller. He will get bubble screens and laterals or be involved in the triple option out of the slot. He will relish the opportunity to be one-on-one, on an island with a defensive back to make him miss and take it for six.

Sure, he will have to learn how to beat press-coverage, catch the ball in traffic and run crisp routes, but Miller is a natural athlete and he should pick most of it up to be a serviceable option at H-back.

2. The offense will be scarier than it already is

With the best athlete in the college football moving from quarterback to the electrifying H-back position, the possibilities will be endless for the 2015 Ohio State offense.

The move cuts the quarterback competition down to just Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, where the offense will be in good hands with whoever wins that battle. Ezekiel Elliott comes into the season as arguably the best every down running back in the country and the receiving corps is headlined by Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and a few highly touted prospects. Dontre Wilson, Miller, Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and possibly a few underclassmen will also see the field at H-back and other positions.

Viewers will see three wide receiver packages with Elliott, Miller, tight end Nick Vannett, Thomas and Marshall all on the field at once. Or they could go four wide receivers with Elliott, Miller, Thomas, Marshall and Wilson. They could also motion Miller into the backfield into a two-back set and run the triple option or outside zone read with Elliott as the lead blocker.

The brilliant and creative Tom Herman will be gone, but Meyer, Ed Warinner and Tim Beck will be running out of room on the chalk board with the variety of sub-packages and plays that they will be creating.

3. What it means for other skill position players

Although Miller will bring a home run hitting mentality to the position, there is still only one football to distribute among the array of playmakers. There can only be so many pass catchers on the field at once and this means that Miller's change to H-back will take away snaps from other players.

The players who will be most effected are Wilson, Samuel, Brown and redshirt freshman Parris Campbell. The player who will have the most to prove at the H-back position this year is Wilson, who is coming off of foot surgery and has yet to live up to the buzz from his recruitment. If the former quarterback grasps the position quickly in camp, Wilson could lose valuable snaps.

The word out of spring practice was that true sophomore Curtis Samuel was taking snaps at H-back, in a way to get the productive New York native on the field, and to back up Wilson after Marshall was moved to full-time receiver. Miller's move to H-back may allow Samuel to go back to his natural position at tailback to back-up Elliott.

Not only will Miller potentially take snaps from other H-backs, but as mentioned above, he may cut into Marshall's punt return duties. Marshall is make-or-break as a punt returner and if Miller shows good focus when returning punts in practice, he will bring stability and big-play ability as a returner.

4. Miller's future as a NFL prospect

With Miller's future as a NFL quarterback in question, this was the correct move for him to make. He has had trouble in the past with his pre-snap reads and the ability to make proper progressions. The arm strength has always been there for Miller, but his accuracy was not always consistent.

There are a couple of former college football quarterbacks who have made the switch to wide receiver; most notably Julian Edelman who scored the game winning touchdown in last year's Super Bowl for the New England Patriots, former Super Bowl champion Antwaan Randle El, and the electrifying Josh Cribbs. Former Buckeye Terrelle Pryor attempted to play quarterback in the NFL for the prior three seasons before ultimately changing positions to wide receiver this season. It will help Miller in the long run to learn how to run proper routes, read coverages as a receiver and catch the football now, before it is too late.