Mark Dantonio: Braxton Miller 'like a tailback-oriented player'

Ohio State is second nationally in rushing offense, and junior quarterback Braxton Miller is a big reason.

Going into Saturday's Big Ten championship game against Michigan State, senior tailback Carlos Hyde is the Buckeyes' leading rusher, but Miller (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) is No. 2, and he's also the fourth-leading rusher nationally among quarterbacks.

Miller gets dinged by pro scouts and draft analysts for his passing ability, but you can't criticize his running skills.

Miller has been extremely productive the past three games, rushing for 481 yards (160.3 yards per game) and six TDs in those contests. He has four 100-yard games this season and has rushed for 809 yards in the eight games since returning from a minor knee injury that kept him out of two contests.

Miller is especially dangerous on third-and-1. According to cfbstats.com, Miller has carried on nine such plays this season and has gotten a first down on eight of them, and he averages 18.1 yards per carry on the plays.

Miller's running ability basically gives Ohio State two tailbacks, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday during his weekly news conference.

"I thought [former Michigan quarterback] Denard Robinson was probably more like a very good flanker when he got loose, and Braxton Miller is more like a tailback," Dantonio said. "He's a power runner. He's a spin runner. ... He's more like a tailback-oriented player back there, so they're able to run certain things with him."

Ohio State beat Michigan State 17-16 last season, and Miller rushed 23 times for 136 yards. But the Spartans corralled him in 2011, when Miller rushed for minus-27 yards on nine carries. That is the only time in Miller's career that he has had negative yardage.

Dantonio and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi have lamented the Spartans' poor tackling in last season's game.

"We have to be able to tackle well in this football game," Dantonio said during his news conference. "We had [Miller] dead to rights a couple of times last year, and he got out and he made a throw or whatever the case."

To that end, the Spartans' defense will have full-contact practices this week. Freshman quarterback Damion Terry, who is redshirting this season, will mimic Miller on the Spartans' scout team, and earlier this week he jokingly tweeted for people to "pray for me."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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