Ohio State's Braxton Miller draws praise, criticism from coach

At his weekly Monday news conference, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said junior quarterback Braxton Miller isn't a finished product and that he panicked in the pocket a few times and missed some checkdowns in Saturday's game against Penn State.

Lest you get the wrong idea, Ohio State won that game 63-14 and Miller was the Big Ten's offensive player of the year. And Meyer also said of Miller, "I anticipated he'd be better [this season], but he's a little better than better."

Meyer said Miller's biggest changes are with improved fundamentals and overall knowledge of the offense, not surprising since this is Miller's second full season in Meyer's version of the spread.

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Miller was a quick study last season, rushing for 1,271 yards (the first time Meyer had a player reach the 1,000-yard plateau) and 13 touchdowns, and throwing for another 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Miller may not reach those statistical plateaus this season for two reasons. First is that he missed two games and most of another with a knee injury. Second is that senior tailback Carlos Hyde is producing big numbers when he gets the opportunity, and Meyer has said Ohio State is calling runs for Miller a lot less this season because of Hyde.

Meyer said that last season, Miller might have had 20 designed runs per game; that number has dropped to about five this season.

Still, Miller has been sharp since returning from his injury, throwing for 875 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions, and rushing for another 321 yards and two scores.

Hyde missed the first three games of the season because of a suspension and received just five carries in his first game back. But in the past four contests, he has rushed for 549 yards and seven carries; he is averaging 6.6 yards per carry in that stretch. Hyde has rushed for at least 100 yards in a half in three consecutive games.

Miller and Hyde will have the chance to put up big numbers again this week when Ohio State plays at Purdue, which is giving up close to 200 yards per game on the ground. The Buckeyes close out the regular season with three road contests among their final four games, but none of the remaining opponents -- Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan -- have anything close to a dominating defense.

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

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