By Matt McCoy
The development of Braxton Miller this year has been obvious. Miller, always a dynamic runner, has become a dead-eye passer, leading the Big Ten in completion percentage, pass efficiency and touchdown passes. He's becoming a polished quarterback, something he was far from when the Buckeyes visited Illinois two years ago.
Starting as a true freshman in 2011, Miller earned his first Big 10 win, when Ohio State won at Illinois 17-7. On that October afternoon, Miller completed all of one pass, a 17 yard TD in the fourth quarter.
"I remember. It was to Jake (Stoneburner)," Miller said as he and the Buckeyes prepare to return to Illinois this Saturday. "I don't think I was ready (to start) at that time but I did what I had to do."
Miller credits his development to the arrival of Urban Meyer as head coach and Tom Herman as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. He became the Big Ten offensive player of the year as a sophomore but still had a long way to go as a quarterback. Miller believes he's made enormous strides this year.
"Day in and day out you have to prepare for things," Miller said. "That's what I didn't do last year. I really didn't understand the preparation (it takes) to be a quarterback. Learning from Coach Meyer and Coach Herman...that's where they really put their emphasis."
Miller's improve preparation and knowledge of the offense has allowed the coaching staff to go significantly deeper into the Buckeye offensive playbook.
"It's not even close. If there's a percentage (the playbook) was probably operating at about 50 percent a year ago," Meyer said. "It's almost 100 now."
To listen to Braxton Miller talk with reporters Wednesday night click here:
All Is Forgiven
The dust-up caused by Evan Spencer's comments is over. So said Urban Meyer Wednesday night when he met with reporters.
Meyer said Tuesday that Spencer would not speak with the media "for a long, long time" after saying Monday that Ohio State would "wipe the field" with Alabama or other top college football teams.
Spencer said he was having fun with reporters and was not being disrespectful but the comments made headlines nationally. Meyer wasn't happy with what Spencer said but the junior receiver is not in the coaches dog house.
"He's a great kid but I just don't like that stuff. I don't think anybody does," Meyer said. "It's over...he's a good kid."
Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier was named a semi-finalist for the Lott IMPACT award, given to the nation's top impact player on defense. That means Shazier is in contention for at least three major awards. He's already been named a semi-finalist for the Bednarik and Butkus awards.
"It's just amazing and it's a humbling experience to be up for these awards," Shazier said. "My goal at the beginning of the year was to be one of the best at my position and have the team be the best as a team. To see all of us succeeding right now is just amazing."
Shazier leads Ohio State in tackles, tackles for loss and is second in sacks.
"Good players on good teams get a lot of recognition and I think he would be the first one to tell you that," Coach Urban Meyer said. "And he is playing at a very high level. He is very deserving of being involved in national awards."
The Failing Illini
While Ohio State trys to extend its winning streak to a school record tying 22, Illinois hopes to pull off a monumental upset and end a Big Ten losing streak that has reached 19. Nonetheless, Meyer said there are reasons to be concerned about the Illini attack.
"They coulda, woulda, shoulda (won) a couple games," Meyer said. "They're real close to winning. (They went to) overtime at Penn State and this past one (Indiana) could have gone either way. They're much better on offense...that's where I see night and day improvement."
Illinois has not beaten Ohio State in Champaign since 1993, a span of eight games.
To listen to Coach Meyer's comments to reporters Wednesday night click here: