FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Two seasons into the Urban Meyer reign, junior quarterback Braxton Miller still hasn’t reached his peak.
“I have no idea where his ceiling is. And then the middle of the season where he put together — he played very well for a while, and everyone around him did, I started to see what Braxton Miller could become as a quarterback, and I can still see that,” coach Meyer said Thursday.
Averaging 169.1 passing yards per game, Miller has thrown 1,860 total passing yards, which is dwarfed by Clemson redshirt-senior quarterback Tajh Boyd’s 3,473 yards. Those passing yards might not mean all that much though.
The Buckeye offense has depended on senior running back Carlos Hyde to barrel past opponents, which is a key reason for the lower passing yards in addition to Miller’s personal rushing yards.
Hyde has stacked up 1,408 rushing yards, even while sitting out the first three games because of a suspension over an incident at a Columbus bar in July. Clemson’s core running back, graduate Roderick McDowell, has recorded 1,004 rushing yards.
Comparatively, Miller’s running yards more than double Boyd’s.
The Orange Bowl could be a balancing act between Clemson’s throwing game and OSU’s running game.
Clemson still isn’t counting out Miller as a thrower though.
“Anytime you play a dual threat quarterback, there’s always that element of running with pulling up and throwing the ball. I think a lot of people underestimate Braxton Miller’s passing ability. I actually think that Braxton Miller, the more I watch film, is a great passer,” said Clemson junior safety Robert Smith Tuesday. “A lot of people don’t see it as much because he can run really well.”
For Meyer though, “great” isn’t going to cut it.
“Braxton has got to play better, but the guys around him have to play better too,” Meyer said. “If you closely evaluate the last few games, two were weather conditions, one was a game where we didn’t throw the ball very much because the run game was working so well and we had to go win the game obviously.”
The game against Clemson Friday might force the Buckeyes to throw more with the Tiger defense amping up against Miller’s rushing game.
“I can’t (stop Miller) by myself, personally. But our front seven and whole 11 on defense, we can get the job done,” said Clemson redshirt-junior defensive end Vic Beasley Tuesday. Having had several days in Miami to prepare, Miller seems to have a target on his back for the Clemson defense.
Meyer has resolved to push Miller into top condition to face the Tigers, and like the Clemson players, sees that his quarterback’s abilities are beyond many.
“He’s not there yet, but the ceiling is pretty high, and it’s a special place not many guys can go because he’s got just incredible ability, quick release, and fundamentally, when he’s on, he’s on. So we just need to keep pushing that envelope,” Meyer said.
Kickoff between the No. 7 Buckeyes (12-1, 8-1) and the No. 12 Clemson Tigers (10-2, 7-1) is set for 8:30 p.m. Friday at Sun Life Stadium.