Braxton Miller made his 2013 season media debut in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, but it was hard to see much difference from the Ohio State quarterback than the last time he met with the media.
Sure, the venue was different – the ornate Chicago Hilton – and he was more dressed up – in a sharp suit and tie instead of workout clothes – but Miller remained as laid back and easy going as ever whether he was answering questions about the 2013 offense, being eligible for a bowl this season or the recent discipline problems that have hit the Buckeyes and their head coach, Urban Meyer.
According to Jack Mewhort, though, looks can be deceiving.
“He’s grown into an incredible leader,” said Mewhort, a fifth-year senior who arrived at Ohio State two years before Miller. “I knew him when he first got here he was quiet and never said a word. You'll catch him these days grabbing guys by the collar and imposing his will on him, if you will.”
The junior quarterback acknowledged he does feel different this year, both about the offense and about his role on the team.
"I feel so much more comfortable with one year under my belt with the same offense,” Miller said. “I just feel like everyone knows what they're doing. I take my three steps, all right, now Devin (Smith) is going to be there on the out cut. I can just place it anywhere. Things like that."
But when someone fails to carry out an assignment, the signal caller is now more comfortable letting them know and telling them why they need to be more exact in their execution. For example, a seven-yard out needs to be run seven yards. If not, Miller will not be out of his drop or have his feet set yet when the receiver breaks open.
It’s a little thing, but those are what teams that went undefeated a year earlier have to work on to continue to improve. Though the Buckeyes were the most powerful offense in the Big Ten last season, they know they have plenty of room to get better.
And that starts with Miller, who said he spent the offseason honing his leadership skills and working on his fundamentals.
“Just being compact and not getting too excited when you see one guy get open,” he said. “Just gotta be mellow, set your feet and throw the ball."
Meyer has stressed the importance of the quarterback of his offense taking charge, a message Miller has taken to heart.
“Definitely – You've got to lead the offense,” Miller said. “You're the head honcho. You've gotta make the calls, tell the people what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong, but you've got to do it in the right way.”
He credited weekly leadership classes with helping him develop that part of his personality.
“It helps a lot,” he said. “We watch videos, hear people talk. It helps a lot. I feel like I'm growing into the leader I should be.”
Mewhort agrees. The Ohio State left tackle has seen the change in Miller, even if it is not that apparent during media interviews.
“It's been really cool to see him grow up,” Mewhort said. “I'm really proud of him. He's working harder than I've ever seen him work. I've seen some really impressive stuff. I'm excited for him.”
All along, however, Miller has maintained a selflessness and a humility that was instilled in him by his family as he grew up in the Dayton area.
Any doubt about that was erased with his answer to a question about being a Heisman Trophy candidate this year.
“You've got to work hard about it,” he said. “It's there in the future, but you've got to take it one game at a time. The outcome of each game will determine the outcome at the end.”
And again when asked if he has any numbers he would like to reach in 2013 after he ran for 1,271 yards and threw for another 2,039 last season.
"No, I don't really think about stuff like that,” he said, adding that he also had not given any thought to whether or not he might skip his senior season to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
Some might find that hard to believe, but then again Miller is an unusually humble player for the position he plays at a place like Ohio State, and his teammates have seen that as long as they have known him.
“It's hard to not be excited and happy for him because he's such a good guy,” Mewhort said. “He's humble with everything he does. He loves this team. I think it's just going to be a really exciting year with him at the helm."