Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor chose The Ohio State University so he could play in Jim Tressel‘s ‘pro style’ offense. He passed up offers to play under a couple of coaches, Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez and Oregon’s Chip Kelly, who employed offenses that perfectly suited TP’s physical makeup and athletic strengths. They wouldn’t have just allowed him to take off running on a whim – they would have made him. You don’t have to look much further than the success of the Wolverines’ Denard Robinson to start imagining what a bigger, better Pryor would have done in RichRod’s offense.
That said, Pryor excelled in the win column at Ohio State in spite of leading an ultra-conservative offensive scheme. His shining moment as a passer came in the 2010 Rose Bowl that saw him complete 23 of 37 pass attempts for two touchdowns and one interception en route to earning Rose Bowl MVP honors. But that performance was the rare game that saw Pryor doing what he was brought to Columbus to do. He wanted to be molded for the next level and Jim Tressel promised to do so.
Was Pryor afraid of being labeled a run-first quarterback, feeling his NFL draft stock would drop if he were? Maybe. He would have posted video game statistics in Ann Arbor or Eugene, likely similar to what we saw out of Heisman winner Cam Newton at Auburn, and Cam went first overall in the NFL Draft. Sure, he was a more polished passer than Pryor, but isn’t that why TP came to Ohio State – to improve on that?
The old myth that duel-threat quarterbacks can’t, or at least won’t, be stars in the NFL has started to go by the wayside. Where Michael Vick was one of a kind when he entered the league, NFL teams are now salivating at the opportunity to draft a Cam Newton (Carolina 1st overall, 2011) or a Robert Griffin III (Washington 2nd overall, 2012).
Could Pryor have been that? Both Newton and Griffin showed far better passing skills in college than what Pryor did, but you always got the feeling at Ohio State Pryor, and the play calling, was being used more for preparing him for the next level. He was never cut loose, per say, as a runner and the offense was never tailored for his strength and abilities. That’s no secret, and much of that can be blamed on Tressel’s conservative nature, but that’s the offense Pryor chose to commit to as a 5-Star out of high school.
Insert Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller.
Miller now has as much on-field experience as most collegiate quarterbacks finishing their junior year, and the next time we see him lace up his cleats he’ll only be a sophomore. Many QB’s are red-shirted their freshman year, including the Buckeyes’ most recent Heisman recipient Troy Smith, who was actually listed as an “Athlete” when he entered the program. Pryor was an exception when he became only the second QB in Ohio State history to start as a freshman (Art Schlichter being the other), but he also had many advantages – program momentum, an established head coach and future NFL wide receivers. But Braxton has one major advantage at this point that Pryor didn’t have: Meyer.
Both are dual-threat quarterbacks who had plenty of success at the high school level. Neither one is known for their accuracy, with Miller completing just 50 percent of his passes this season, but both are able to make up for that in other areas. Tebow was 25 pounds heavier and was a bully when he met defenders in the open field – Miller doesn’t quite have the size but has the lateral quickness to make them miss.
If Meyer is going to match his Florida success at Ohio State, he’ll need to mold Miller into a dynamic play maker like Tebow was during the Gators’ dynasty, and you can bet your buckeyes that’s part of the plan.
Coach Meyer on Miller, from his November 28th introductory press conference:
“I watched him play throughout the year. I’ve watched him compete in the big game. And to tell you I’m excited to coach him, I’m not using the correct adjectives. And because there’s mixed company around I’m not going to use the correct adjectives, how excited I am. So I think you get it, right? Really excited.”
“We’ve been blessed to have some great quarterbacks. And I’m really thinking this guy can be – I’m putting a lot of pressure on this cat already – but he’s special. What I’ve seen on film, he’s special.”
The spread-option system Meyer will introduce into the Ohio State offense fits Braxton’s skill set perfectly. While he’s not yet the polished passer for the Buckeyes that he proved to be on the high school level, that should come with more experience as the college game “slows down” for him. What he’s already proven to the rest of the B1G is that he’s quick laterally and fast enough to outrun most in a straight line. He’s mature, intelligent as a quarterback, and athletic. And Meyer isn’t messing around with focusing on “preparing him for the draft.” He’s preparing Brax for one thing and one thing only – to do what he was brought to Columbus to do – win games in Scarlet and Gray.
Consider this: the Tim Tebow that we painfully watched play for the NFL’s Denver Broncos last year, a team that had to employ a gimmick offense (by NFL standards) to accommodate his below-average passing abilities, thrived in Urban’s system. During the Gators’ 2008 title run Tebow ran for nearly 700 yards while racking up 2,792 more yards by completing 64.4 percent of his 298 passing attempts.
Meyer inherited Miller from the Jim Tressel Era, but obviously loves the kid and the mold he was built in. He is a Meyer-type quarterback if ever there were one. So it should come as no surprise that the only quarterback Meyer has reeled in within his first recruiting class and a half is the 6th best quarterback of the 2013 class – duel-threat 4-Star J.T. Barrett out of Wichita Falls, Texas. Yeah, there’s that word again. “Duel-threat.”
Barrett should land in Columbus just in time to watch, and learn, from the junior year version of Braxton Miller. If we’re fortunate J.T. will get to learn from the senior year version as well, but that’s yet to be seen. The plan for Brax was to sit behind Pryor his freshman year and watch the senior signal caller in action, setting him up to take over as a sophomore. We all know how that plan worked out, as Miller was thrust into action just three games into his college career. That won’t be the case with Barrett, which gives us even more reason to be excited about what Meyer can do with – or for – the Texas product.
As a junior at Rider High School, Barrett racked up 1,500 yards on the ground and 1,600 more through the air. He’s already better refined than most duel-threat quarterbacks at his age and his upside is unlimited. Meyer will tap into that potential and maximize it, there’s no doubt about that.
If all goes as planned, and depending on how the competition between Barrett and current Buckeye freshman Cardale Jones turns out, Barrett could very well be taking over the reigns from Miller in 2015 already having worked with Meyer for two seasons. He’ll officially be the most prepared quarterback in his debut than any we have seen in Columbus in a few years after starting the last two program-quarterbacks as freshmen.
But first things first. This season we’ll see a sophomore Braxton Miller playing for a two-time National Champion head coach who molds his offense around an athletic quarterback. He’ll be watched closely, and coached up, by new Ohio State quarterbacks coach Tom Herman who himself has a track record of putting up numbers in spread offenses. He’ll run. He’ll pass. He’ll grow. And he’ll thrive.
Business is about to pick up in Columbus.