Awards watch: Miller, Simon take top honors

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- So much for waiting a year to become an award-worthy quarterback.

A longshot candidate for any trophy heading into the season thanks to the combination of pedestrian passing numbers as a freshman, his relative inexperience and the transition to Ohio State's new spread offense, the preseason perception of Braxton Miller largely seemed to be that it would take time for him to become an elite player on the national stage.

But that timeframe didn't work for the undefeated Buckeyes or their star sophomore, who picked up the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award on Tuesday to further validate his emergence in the conference. And even if he isn't invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation next week, the hardware he's already collected provides another reminder that Miller's development is ahead of schedule -- even if it's not complete.

"You know, I appreciate everything that went down this year, and with the guys, those seniors, it came out really well," Miller said during a press conference on campus Tuesday. "The hard work we put in during the offseason with [strength] Coach Mick [Marotti], it paid off in the end. I’m pretty appreciative of that.

"You know, it’s one step closer to all the goals that I want to reach playing football. There’s a lot more things I’ve still got to work at."

The work for the Buckeyes is done for teammate John Simon, who couldn't wrap up his career on the field against Michigan last week but still picked up the complementary award to Miller's by claiming the Big Ten's defensive player of the year honor.

The two-time Ohio State captain was both an emotional leader and the conference's most prolific sack artist. Simon topped the Big Ten leaderboard with nine sacks despite playing through injuries throughout the season and missing the Michigan game after being injured against Wisconsin, a game that would go down as his last action with the Buckeyes.

Perhaps no departing player will be tougher to replace than Simon as the Buckeyes turn their attention to next season and try to duplicate 2012's perfect record, with his production every bit as valuable as his work ethic. But they will have Miller returning to defend at least one major award from the Big Ten, and if he continues improving the way he did from his first year to his second, more could be on the way.

"It means a lot, achieving my goals, but I still haven’t reached them yet and have a lot of things to work on," Miller said. "Coach [Urban] Meyer and [offensive coordinator Tom] Herman, they’ve helped me a lot with the process since last year being a freshman. I’m getting better each and every day.

"I’d say the [goal is meeting the] potential that I have. I haven’t really reached all the things that I can really accomplish yet. Just taking one day at a time to get better."

There is already nobody better on offense in the Big Ten.