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Better Ohio State QB: Braxton Miller vs. Terrelle Pryor

by Joe Coughlin
Apr 16, 2013 9:05 AM EDT



Heisman has been a term lingering in Columbus, Ohio, for the better part of a decade, ever since Troy Smith took over for Justin Zwick in 2004 (for the purposes of this piece, we’ll avoid the Todd Boeckman years).

Smith earned the coveted hardware in 2006 and two years later, Columbus had more Heisman dreams with flashy Terrelle Pryor under center. Those didn’t come true, but Pryor proved to be one of the top athletes to ever stroll through campus.

Now, a new talent has emerged — Braxton Miller, who is making college football fans across the country envious of the seemingly endless talent rotating behind center at OSU.

But who’s better? Miller had a breakout campaign in 2012 as a sophomore. Pryor in 2009 as a sophomore. Both can run, both can throw and both piled up wins and more wins.

They are, however, different quarterbacks and it’s probably unfair to compare them straight up. But we’re going to anyway.

The case for Pryor

Big, intimidating and an athletic freak, Pryor did mostly what he wanted on the football field.

While he broke out his sophomore year, his signature year was 2010 when the Buckeyes were 11-1, winning the Sugar Bowl (the NCAA since vacated the wins because of violations, which also caused Pryor to withdraw from OSU). That season, he led the league with 27 TD passes to go with 2,772 yards in the air and another 754 on the ground, plus four more scores.

Pryor did his running by surprise, scrambling when the defense wasn’t showing him open passing lanes. Patient with quick feet, Pryor could make the most of situations. He’d calmly slide in the pocket and wait for a receiver to pop open, but if a seam opened first, he’d use his long strides to get to breakaway speed in an instant.

Pryor was surprisingly accurate for a man on the run, hitting receivers at a 65 percent clip. He also had a big arm and could hurl the ball down field with relative ease.

The case for Miller

If Pryor takes what’s there, Braxton Miller makes it.

Last year, fifth-year senior Jake Stoneburner said, “Braxton is Michael Vick. Terrelle is Vince Young.” I can’t think of a better general comparison.

Under Urban Meyer last year, the coaches often called run and read-option plays for Miller, who has the agility and footwork of a D-I tailback. He totaled 1,271 rushing yards on 227 carries. Pryor never had more than 162 carries.

Miller (6-foot-2, 220) is smaller than Pryor (6-foot-4, 235) and uses it to his advantage, hiding behind tackles and then blazing through a tiny window. He has great vision and changes speeds on a whim, making him difficult to locate and bring down.

Miller also threw for 2,000 yards with 15 scores and six picks, but only completed 58 percent of his passes. That said, Miller throws a prettier ball that Pryor. He has a smoother motion and much more zip. He showed development with his deep ball as the 2012 season progressed.

None of that, of course, means squat unless you can hit your receivers. The potential is there and if he gets a consistent delivery outside the pocket, he will be unstoppable.

The winner: Miller

OHIO STATE QB COMPARISON: SOPHOMORE SEASONS
Player Completion Percentage Passing Yards TD/INT Rushing Yards Rushing TDs
Terrelle Pryor 56.6 2,094 18/11 779 7
Braxton Miller 58.3 2,039 15/6 1,271 13

To me, those similar stats foreshadow a continued progression all-around for Miller. He’s a better pure runner than Pryor and throws a better, quicker ball.

Miller’s big-play ability will be on the mind of defenses all season long, which Meyer and Miller will use to their advantage. Expect to see plenty of open receivers and a more accurate Miller in 2013. That will result in touchdowns.

I also expect to see less than the 227 rushing attempts he had in 2012 as the Buckeyes toy with opposing defenses.

Give me Miller for 2,700 yards passing, 24 scores to go with 1,100 yards rushing and 15 scores — enough for a place in the Heisman final grouping.

That would make Miller not just better than Pryor, but maybe the best OSU quarterback of all-time.