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Published: Thursday, 12/19/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Braxton Miller weighs his options

OSU’s Miller could enter NFL draft after Orange Bowl

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ohio State’s Braxton Miller has passed for 1,860 yards and run for 1,033 this season despite missing three games with a knee injury. Ohio State’s Braxton Miller has passed for 1,860 yards and run for 1,033 this season despite missing three games with a knee injury.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

COLUMBUS — Braxton Miller is a two-time Big Ten player of the year with a flair for the electric.

Ask the Ohio State quarterback if he believes he is ready to play in the NFL, and there is little hesitation.

"Oh yeah, of course," he said. "Yeah, definitely. Just like when I came here from high school, coaches are going to get you prepared, get you mentally ready for everything. It's just another step in life."

So can we read the Buckeye leaves? Is he staying or going?

Miller isn’t saying.

As No. 7 Ohio State prepares to face Clemson in the Orange Bowl, the junior star’s impending decision — a choice that will largely shape the Buckeyes’ expectations for next season — continues to hang over the program.

He has betrayed few hints since OSU’s 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. He told a Sports Illustrated reporter in the post-defeat haze that he planned to return for his senior year, then conceded days later, "It's tough; I just don't know."

"Hopefully ball out on January 3 and see what the scouts are looking at,” Miller told the Chicago Tribune after winning the newspaper's Silver Football Award as Big Ten MVP.

Miller, who passed for 1,860 yards and ran for 1,033 this season despite missing three games with a sprained knee, also told the newspaper he is well aware the Buckeyes are losing four senior starters on the offensive line and that he is "getting tired" of taking hits.

Speaking with local reporters Wednesday for the first time since the conference title game, he said he is not leaning one way or the other.

Meyer said he has not yet talked with Miller about the NFL but, like most draft analysts, recently suggested his quarterback would benefit from another year of college.

"He has a skill set to be a pro quarterback, there is no doubt in my mind," Meyer said. "I don't believe he's ready yet, but I certainly get asked that question. Can Braxton Miller play an NFL quarterback? Absolutely, he can. There's no doubt in my mind because he continues to develop."

Many see Miller as a dazzling athlete with a big arm in need of more polish as a passer. Though his accuracy has improved, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes over the final month of the season.

Miller is widely viewed as a mid-round selection if he chooses to wade into a deep class of draft-eligible quarterbacks. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, UCF's Blake Bortles, and Fresno State's Derek Carr are projected first-round locks while UCLA's Brett Hundley, Alabama's AJ McCarron, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, and Georgia's Aaron Murray could all be drafted ahead of him.

"Does [Miller] have a lot to gain from coming back? Absolutely," CBS Sports draft expert Dane Brugler said. "At the beginning of the season, I considered him a better running back prospect than a quarterback prospect. But through the year, with his passing, he did show progression and improvement. He really needs to continue that development as a passer. His touch, his accuracy, his anticipation, all those areas kind of run hot and cold throughout a game.

"So much will depend on how he does in the predraft process. When it comes to the quarterback situation, all it takes is one team to like you and believe in you. It wouldn't shock me if a team took a chance on him in that second round. But I think we're talking more third and fourth round right now."

Miller declined to share what factors could push him into the draft, though he said his family situation — Miller has a 1-year-old son, Landon — or concern for his health would not play a role. He acknowledged the pros of another year in college: "Learn from Coach Meyer, graduate, get better fundamental-wise, lead the young guys."

Yet for now, Miller isn’t tipping his hand.

"I’m just focused on the team right now," he said, "just focused on what we’ve got to accomplish as a group and for the Buckeye Nation."

EXTRA POINTS: Buckeyes senior left tackle Jack Mewhort was named to the Football Writers Association of America All-America second team. ... Meyer was in good spirits after OSU landed a pair of blue-chip prospects — five-star Georgia linebacker Raekwon McMillan and four-star Florida receiver Johnnie Dixon — on back-to-back days this week. Though not allowed to speak in specifics, he said the commitments "make the food taste better." ... Meyer said senior starting right guard Marcus Hall, who sat out the Big Ten title game for his obscene gesture at Michigan a week earlier, will play in the Orange Bowl.

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.



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