Obviously Braxton Miller is a (the?) player to watch every Buckeye game, but there are more reasons to watch Miller closely against Hawaii on Saturday than just catching his SportsCenter Top10 moments. Hawaii's no Virginia Tech. Hell, Hawaii probably isn' even a Virginia. Overmatched opponent or not, there's plenty of reasons to keep a close eye on XBraxOne, who could be in for another huge day.
Year: RS Senior (graduate student)
Weight: 215 lbs.
Current state line: 2 rec., 78 yds., 1 TD; 6 carries, 62 yards, 1 TD.
Braxton came out of Ohio State's opening game reminding everyone that he's the LeBron James of this team. After this dizzying run:
Even the King recognized that Braxton's capable of getting on his level:
I see you lil bro @BraxtonMiller5!!! Hit em with "The Silencer"
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 8, 2015
The game situation
Ohio State was missing most of their playmaking wide receivers against Virginia Tech, and it showed. Except for a long bomb to Michael Thomas, most of Cardale Jones's passing was directed toward Curtis Samuel and Ezekiel Elliott out of the backfield and into the flats. The intermediate passing game was virtually non-existent. Virginia Tech's scheme had a lot to do with that, but so did Ohio State's personnel.
Now, Ohio State's back to full strength, with an additional two legit receivers (Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith) and another H-Back (Dontre Wilson) on the field. There's a lot more versatility and reliability in the passing game now. The end of last season showed that Smith and Marshall were ready for primetime, and Dontre Wilson has always been a speedy threat.
Miller comes into this game showing why he's the best athlete on this Ohio State team. But with a full compliment of RBs, HBs, and WRs around him, how will Miller shine in the game plan? Will he get enough touches, or will the addition of even more playmakers make it impossible for defenses to try to contain him?
What to watch for
Against Virginia Tech, Miller took direct snaps. He ran the option as the pitch man. He caught passes. He did everything, basically, except throw the ball. Who else was going to make plays though? Urban Meyer's staff resolutely refused to feed Ezekiel Elliott and push him into the loaded box that the Hokies presented, so Miller was the most obvious threat. It hearkens back to when Miller was the only true weapon on this team in 2012 and, to some degree, 2013, and he took the team on his shoulders to deliver victories. To that end, on Monday night, Miller was both the leading receiver and the third-best rusher on the team.
The question on Saturday is how is Miller integrated onto a team when all the weapons are there? How many times does Miller run the deep route to burn slower safeties? How many times is he in a wildcat-ish formation, taking direct snaps? Ohio State burns hot and quick; there's only so many offensive snaps to go around. The play on Saturday will show us how much these Buckeyes intend to rely on their star play-maker when the rest of the studs return to the field. It's not just what Miller does, it's where he does it from. Is he touching the ball every time he's on the field? How does he get the ball from the slot? What defensive adjustments does he mandate? Now that Braxton's shown us he's back, now we get to see how defenses adjust to his greatness.
Monday gave us a taste of what Ohio State can do with one hand tied behind its back. On Saturday, we'll see Ohio State in its true form, and we'll get a glimpse of Ohio State's true intentions for Braxton Miller. Is he going to be a jack of all trades all season? Or did Urban and company just lay down some weird game tape for future opponents to contemplate when preparing? Either way, I'll be watching Braxton closely all game to see his highlights and his integration into the offense.