Braxton Miller, QB, 6’1, 185, Huber Heights(Wayne)OH
The Class of 2011 is deep with athletic, dual-threat quarterbacks that will be heavily pursued by the colleges now running the spread offense and offenses looking for a more mobile quarterback to combat the speed that dominates the nation’s premier defenses. One of the better dual threat quarterbacks is Ohio’s Braxton Miller. Tennessee is along with Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Illinois, and Wisconsin as programs seeking to land Miller as their future signal caller. Miller is a dynamic athlete who has the passing ability to be a quarterback and the athletic skills to make plays with the ball in his hands regardless of position. The 6’1, 185 pound Miller has a frame similar to a young Donovan McNabb. He has decent height at 6’1 and although he is a bit skinny at this point, has a very nice athletic frame that will allow him to develop quite nicely as he transitions to a college workout program. This will make Miller even more explosive and dangerous as a football player.
Miller’s primary asset at this point in time is his excellent running ability as a quarterback. He possesses very good speed for a quarterback and has the ability to accelerate past defenders on the edge and beat defensive backs downfield for big plays. The Wayne High standout also has excellent quickness that allows him to change direction quickly as well as provides him with the ability to make defenders miss in the backfield and in open space. He shows the ability to immediately accelerate after making defenders miss which allows him to avoid backfield defenders and break into the open for a potential big play. When you combine his agility with his vision it is no wonder he was able to rush for 18 touchdowns as a high school junior. Although he needs to learn a bit more patience in the pocket, Miller’s ability to make plays with his feet project him nicely for the spread offense. If you have a quarterback who can make pays with his feet your offense becomes more dangerous. It often requires the defense to put extra defenders in the box to contain that quarterback, which opens up the pass game. Miller certainly has the ability to be that kind of threat from the quarterback position. He is one of those players who must be accounted for on every single play as a runner. If this does not happen he can hurt a defense very, very badly.
At this point in his development the Huber Heights native is a bit raw as a passer. He has good arm strength and can potentially make every throw he would need to make as a quarterback. On two throws I saw he was able to throw the football about 60 yards in the air, which is plenty far enough to attack teams vertically in college. His arm strength is still untapped, as he is a complete arm thrower right now. He does not get the kind of velocity and rotation on his throws that he could potentially get if he improves his technique (see below). Miller pushes the football at this point and fails to use his core at all in his throws. There are plenty of throws he makes where he is able to launch the ball deep or get good zip on it, but because he uses all arm he is required to really windup his upper body and tends to put him off balance on the deeper and harder throws.
I am impressed with Miller’s quick release. Despite carrying the football too far from his back shoulder he is able to quickly get the football into position to throw and shows good speed getting through the throwing zone. This allows him to be quite effective with the quick passing game. It also allows him to quickly get rid of the football as defenders close in on him in the pocket. As mentioned above he tends to push or aim the ball a bit too much, rather than really ripping through the throwing zone and getting more velocity on the football. This is due to the fact he does not properly carry the football in the pocket (he has to get the ball closer to his back shoulder), which prevents him from really getting the ball back and in position to rip the ball out. It is also due to the fact that he does not use his core at all when he throws. He relies far too much on his arm. As he learns to use his core (legs, hips, abs, etc) he will get more natural torque with his upper body. This will create more violence and speed as his arm goes through the throwing zone. Miller has to learn to use his lead arm to bring his upper body through the zone with more power and speed. This will allow him to get more speed through the zone and give him a better follow through, which will create more velocity on his throws.
As Miller works in the pocket he shows very good natural fundamentals. He has quick feet, he keeps a good base, he shows good knee bend, and he stays relatively light on his feet. The problem arises when he gets his feet set to throw. When a quarterback hits the top of his drop the back foot is used to drive the quarterback forward and serves as the initial factor is creating power. You do this either on a rhythm throw or when moving ones feet through their progressions. Miller simply does not drive off his back foot, which essentially negates any use of his core. As he learns to drive off his back foot you will see more natural torque with the rest of his body and will create more power, velocity, and speed on his throws. This will make him a far more effective quarterback at the next level. Miller shows good quickness on his drops and does a real nice job stepping to his targets in the pocket, so I truly believe his issues are somewhat minor. By minor they are things that can easily be fixed with work and do not require major changes to his throwing motion, which often proves difficult to do.
Miller’s stats do not portray a highly accurate quarterback. He completed only 53.0 and 52.2 percent of his passes over the last two seasons after completing 61.2 of his passes as a freshman. There are reasons for this. Miller has a very good idea of where he wants to go with the football. It is clear he has to read defenses after the snap at the high school level, so he is not just isolated on one receiver. This is a plus. Secondly, it is obvious that Miller understands location and placement. As mentioned above he has a good natural understanding of the proper footwork needed to be a good quarterback. With improved technique and improved coaching I believe that Miller will in fact have the accuracy needed to be a successful college quarterback. He will also need to learn to throw with better timing. If these improvements happen expect to see his completion percentage and success throwing the football increase significantly.
The Wayne High standout has very good quickness on his drops, and as mentioned above has the natural technique to be successful in the pocket. One thing he will have to learn is to be more patient in the pocket and buy a bit more time at the top of his drop before he takes off. Miller does a nice job of using his feet to buy time in the pocket to make a play with his arm, rather than simply tucking it and running downfield. This makes him even more dangerous. Miller throws well on the run, but at times allows his feet to get away from his which throws off his balance. This affects his accuracy and takes some velocity off his throws. Miller also has to learn to protect the football much better as he moves in the pocket. He tends to let the ball get out much too far as he moves and will lead to too many turnovers.
To me what makes a high school player a big time prospect is not necessarily how productive he is at the high school level; rather, it is whether or not his skill set will allow him develop into a standout at the next level. You will find high school quarterbacks who are far more productive than Braxton Miller. You will find more prospects who will throw for more yards, run for more yards, and account for more touchdowns. But not many prospects in this class have the same upside as Miller. His best days are clearly ahead of him. With his athletic ability and natural throwing skills he projects as a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in a spread offense. Miller also spends plenty of time under center so he could certainly adapt to a more traditional offense once he improves his fundamentals. If for some reason he does not make it as a quarterback Miller has the athletic skills, vision, and big play ability to easily transition to another position on the offensive side of the football. Regardless of where he is at this point in his development, one thing is for sure, Miller is one of the more explosive players in the nation. If a team is willing to be patient with him and continue to work with him on his technique, they will be getting themselves a talented young signal caller with the potential to be a game-changer.
Arm Strength: 82
Mechanics/Throwing Motion: 76
Pocket Presence/Mobility: 83
Running/Scrambling Ability: 92
Overall Grade: 4
90-100 – Elite/Exceptional: Skill set is rare and gives prospect ability to dominate
80-89 – Very Good/Outstanding: Skill set is a significant strength
70-79 – Average: Skill set is solid, not a significant weakness
60-69 – Below Average: Skill set is not a strength for this player and could become a liability
50-59 – Very Poor: Prospect does not possess this trait and it is a definite liability
5 – Elite: Player is one of the best players at his position nationally, potentially dominant
4 – Very Good/Outstanding: Player is a potential standout and starter, could also play early
3 – Solid: Player is a potential contributor, could eventually start down the road
2 – Below Average: Player does not possess the talent to be a significant contributor
1 – Poor: Let’s be honest, Tennessee is not going to bring in anyone with a one!!