Read-option success paces Miller, Buckeyes

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Braxton Miller (left) and his read-option success helped lead Ohio State to a 12-0 season in 2012.

The 2013 college football season has the potential to showcase one of the greatest quarterback classes ever. Eight of the top 10 teams in last year’s final AP Poll return their starting quarterbacks, and every conference except the Big 12 returns either their first- or second-team quarterbacks from last season.

In preparation for the 2013 season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. Tuesday, we look at the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Braxton Miller.

A Look Back at 2012

Braxton Miller had a breakout sophomore season. He was one of five FBS players to gain at least 1,000 rush yards and 2,000 pass yards and his 105.9 rush yards per game were the fourth-most by both a Big Ten player and by an FBS quarterback.

Miller didn't subscribe to the Woody Hayes mantra of “three yards and a cloud of dust.” Instead, Miller finished with 10 rushes that gained at least 30 yards, tied for fifth-most in the nation. Five of those 10 rushes went for touchdowns.

Miller started all 12 games for the nation’s only undefeated FBS team last season and made an impact each time out. He scored a touchdown (rush or pass) in 11 of Ohio State’s 12 games and ran for a score of at least 30 yards in five games. The five games with a 30-yard rush TD were tied for the third-most among all FBS players, and second among quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel – 6).

Braxton Miller on Zone-Read Plays
Last 2 Seasons

One reason for Miller’s success was the way he was utilized by Urban Meyer. Miller averaged 13.8 designed runs per game, an increase of over seven per game from his freshman season. As a result, Miller led all BCS AQ-quarterbacks with 1,214 yards on designed-running plays last season.

It was more than just the quantity of plays called for Miller--it was also the design of them. Meyer used Miller on read option or zone-read plays on 35.2 percent of his carries.

Miller excelled on this play, averaging over eight yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns, including three longer than 50 yards. He finished the season with 676 yards on zone-read plays, 630 more than he had as a freshman.

What’s Ahead for 2013?

Braxton Miller Inside Pocket
Last 2 Seasons - Big Ten Games

The question for Miller is can he continue to improve as a pocket passer. He made great strides last season, completing 59 percent of his passes from inside the pocket in Big Ten games. That is up nearly 13 percentage points from 2011.

He completed a career-high 83.3 percent of such passes against Michigan in the final game of last season. It was the third straight game that he completed at least 60 percent from inside the pocket, the longest such streak of his career.

Despite his improvement in the pocket, Miller struggled on third down in 2012. He had the lowest completion percentage on third down of any Big Ten quarterback with at least 60 attempts (48.7 percent). His 24 passing first downs on third down were the third-fewest for an FBS quarterback with at least 75 attempts.

If Miller can continue to develop in the pocket and become more efficient on third down, Ohio State could be looking at its record eighth Heisman Trophy winner.