Miller, Simon Named Players Of Year

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was named as the Big Ten offensive player of the year in awards announced by the conference Tuesday night. Defensive end John Simon was also named as the defensive player of the year (see below).

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Miller, a sophomore, was the driving force behind the OSU offense during the team’s run to a perfect 12-0 season. (Check out a video interview with Miller from this afternoon after he learned of the award.)

During this season, Miller ended up second in the Big Ten in total offense with 3,310 yards (275.8 yards per game). He was less than a yard behind Big Ten leader Taylor Martinez (276.3 ypg). That yardage total also allowed Miller to set a new OSU single-season record in that total offense category, eclipsing the old mark of 3,290 yards set by Bobby Hoying in 1995.

(It should be noted that Terrelle Pryor’s rushing and passing combined for 3,526 yards in 2010, but those statistics were vacated as part of NCAA sanctions.)

On Monday, Miller was voted to the All-Big Ten first team by the media, but just the second team by the coaches. That gave rise to speculation he might not win the offensive player of the year award. But, clearly, it all worked out in the end for Miller.

Miller was asked for his reaction when he learned of the award.

“It’s one step closer to all of the goals I want to reach playing football,” Miller said. “There are still a lot more things I have to work at.

“I appreciate everything that went down this year. For the seniors, it came out really well. The hard work we put in during the off-season with Coach Mick (Mickey Marotti), it all paid off at the end.”

Here are some more Miller numbers:

* He became just the third Big Ten quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season with 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns on 227 carries. He ended up fifth in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game at 105.9 ypg. That yardage total is the 13th-most in a single season in OSU history.

* Miller completed 58.3 percent of his passes (148 of 254) this season for 2,039 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He was fifth in the Big Ten in passing efficiency and sixth in passing average per game (169.9 ypg).

* In two years, Miller has thrown for 3,198 yards and 28 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. That puts him in 11th place on OSU’s career passing list. He has a shot to break Art Schlichter’s career record of 7,547 yards with two more solid seasons.

* He has also now rushed for 1,986 yards and 20 touchdowns in two seasons. His total offense yardage total in two years is now 5,184. That ranks 10th in career annals. At his 2012 pace, he would break Schlichter’s career record in that category (8,850 yards from 1978-81) late next season.

* After a 12-0 season, Miller is now 16-6 as OSU’s starting quarterback in two years.

Of course, one thing lacking on his resume is a Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes were the best team by record in the Big Ten this year, but were ineligible to play for the title. That changes in 2013 and Miller knows he and his team will be considered the hunted.

“Everybody has a sour taste,” Miller said. “We can’t go to a bowl game and the seniors, but we have to keep working in the off-season and get ready for next year. It comes along with playing football. You expect things like that. It’s no big pressure on me.”

Miller capped his season with OSU’s 26-21 win over Michigan on Saturday, evening his record against UM at 1-1. He was 14 of 18 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown and also carried the ball 20 times for 57 yards.

“Our quarterback threw for almost 200 yards against the number one pass defense in America,” said OSU coach Urban Meyer. “He played his heart out as well.”

Miller bounced back from a subpar performance the week before against Wisconsin.

“We didn’t have as much school (because of Thanksgiving break) and I was able to go in there and study a whole lot,” Miller said. “That ties in with the preparation and the passing game. I stayed in there each morning, went home and took a break and came back.

“I think they contained me pretty well. They did not allow me to run outside. On the third down, they did some tricky things with the nose standing up and four guys on one side and two on the other. That kind of confused me a little bit. Other than that, it was good.”

Miller and his teammates became just the sixth OSU team to finish a season unbeaten and untied.

“I’ve never been a part of a team like this with the toughness, the attitude and the swag we had throughout the whole year,” he said. “I’m just glad to be a part of this team at 12-0.”

He took over as OSU’s starter in Week 4 of his freshman year in 2011. But the chance to work with Meyer and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Herman helped Miller to elevate his game.

“Wow. Learning from those guys … in the first six months, I learned how to read defenses and how to settle my feet when I pass the ball and how to be a leader and be more mature,” he said.

“I still haven’t reached (my goals) yet. I still have a lot of things to work on. Coach Meyer and Coach Herman have helped me a lot. I don’t think I have reached all of the things I can accomplish yet.”

Miller was asked when he knew Ohio State’s offense was going to click.

“I’d say it was the Nebraska game,” he said. “It was the first night game of the year. It was crazy. The guys were hyped. Everybody was excited to go out in front of our home fans and light it up.”

One more award on the horizon could be the Big Ten MVP, presented in December by the Chicago Tribune.

“Oh, it’s up to the critics and things like that,” he said. “I’m just glad we went 12-0 for the seniors.”

Miller’s name was mentioned earlier in the year for the Heisman. That race seems to be between Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te’o.

“I heard it few times (early) in the season,” Miller said. “I didn’t pay much attention to it but some of the guys were always making jokes about it. I know I just have to keep working hard.”

The Coaches’ Take

Speaking on Monday, Meyer talked about the strides his young quarterback has made.

“That’s the most unique position in sports. You’ve got to run the show. He did not a year ago and he certainly did not early in this year. But he began to … I saw him call the team together and say some things to them. His growth has been exponential in terms of that.

“His accuracy and his passing, he still has a long way to go with that. His comfort in the pocket has improved.”

But Meyer – ever the taskmaster – says he intends to push Miller even farther and harder in the year ahead.

“Our quarterback, fundamentally, was not the best fundamental quarterback in America,” Meyer said. “Tom Herman and I are going to have a chat. Why didn’t that happen? That’s his job to explain to me why it didn’t happen. This is big boy football and that’s your job.

Tom Herman and Braxton Miller have to understand they have to get better. If he can fundamentally become the best quarterback in America, I think he will be the best quarterback in America. I think it’s comical what he could do … but he’s not there yet. It’s my job as the head coach to find out why that hasn’t happened.

“Have you not worked on it enough? Is there resistance, is there pushback, is there a knowledge problem? Why has he not? At times, he was. But he was not that way on a consistent basis. That will be our chip and a chip on Coach Herman’s shoulder and also on Braxton’s.”

One area Meyer cited was Miller’s ability to scramble for yardage. He can execute called quarterback runs, but seemed reluctant to pull the ball down and run for easy yards.

“I know what Coach Meyer is talking about,” Miller said. “When I’m rolling out and there is open field, I’m still looking for somebody down the field to get open. I’m looking to throw the ball instead of running. He’s just saying, ‘Play the game, don’t change who you are.’ ”

Herman, speaking after Saturday’s game, agreed that Miller can hurt defenses even more.

“We addressed it,” Herman said. “With him, he is so freakish athletically he tries to hit home runs instead of singles and doubles. That was the biggest thing we tried to get across to him at halftime – go get you a double. A double is OK. Just don’t strike out.

“He will learn as time goes on that, as good an athlete as he is, there is a time and place to just go get the tough yards.”

As a final exam, though, Herman was glad to see Miller come through in the big game against Michigan.

“He prepared better this week, probably better than any other week,” he said. “The numbers in the throw game probably speak for themselves, too. He was 14 of 18. He made decent decisions. He threw the ball away a couple of times, which was nice to see.

“The sky is the limit for him. To say he is a finished product is not even close to reality. To have him come back and respond after the game he had against Wisconsin was good to see.”

Simon Wins Defensive Honor

Here is OSU's release on Simon's selection:

John Simon, the player coach Urban Meyer called the “heart and soul of our team,” was honored by the Big Ten Conference today with the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year Award. This award comes in the wake of Simon being named the Smith-Brown defensive lineman of the year in the Big Ten on Monday.

“It means a lot to win this award,” Simon said. “It is truly a great honor, but first and foremost it is a team award. I wouldn’t be given this award if it weren’t for the great play of my teammates … great coverage in the back end and guys taking up blocks on the front end. I praise those guys for helping me get this and that is what it is all about.”

Only the eighth two-time captain in school history, Simon started 37 consecutive games before a knee injury sidelined him for the final game of the season, a 26-21 win over Michigan that completed a 12-0 regular season for the No. 4-ranked Buckeyes.

“It was extremely tough to have to stay on the sidelines that last game and to watch your family go out there and play,” Simon said. “But they stepped up and got the win and I’ve never been more proud of a group of guys in all my life.”

Simon led the Big Ten in quarterback sacks this year (9.0 for minus-73 yards) and ranked second with 14.5 tackles-for-loss, totaling minus-87 yards – both Top 25 marks nationally. Those numbers boosted Simon to No. 7 all-time in both categories in school history, with 20.5 sacks and 43.0 TFLs.

Simon was twice named Big Ten defensive player of the week this year: after a school-record tying 5.0 TFLs for minus-24 yards (two sacks) and forced a fumble vs. Nebraska; and after another dominating effort, vs. Wisconsin with 4.0 sacks for minus-36 yards. He was named the Bednarik, Lott IMPACT and Performance Award national defensive player of the week after the Nebraska game.

“I think everyone knows how highly I think of John Simon,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He is absolutely one of the finest young men I have had the privilege to coach. His determination and effort and selfless approach are second to none, and there is no better player or person to be honored with this player of the year award.”

Simon, a third-team Associated Press All-American in 2011, is a semifinalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy for the second consecutive year. Student-athletes for this national award are considered based on academic standing, community contributions, leadership skills and overall character.

Full Big Ten Awards Release

Here is the Big Ten release on the awards announced Tuesday:

The Big Ten Conference announced on Tuesday the winners of the top five individual awards for the 2012 football season. Ohio State’s Braxton Miller was named the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year, Ohio State’s John Simon was tabbed the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, Penn State’s Deion Barnes was recognized as the Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year, and the Nittany Lions’ Bill O’Brien was named the Hayes-Schembechler and Dave McClain Coach of the Year. The honors are part of the Big Ten’s enhanced football awards program which debuted last season.

Miller becomes the fifth Buckeye to earn the Big Ten’s top offensive honor, joining Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith (2006), Joe Germaine (1998), Orlando Pace (1996) and Heisman winner and trophy namesake Eddie George (1995). The Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year, Miller rushed for 1,271 yards this season, which ranks second in the Big Ten records book for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback. Miller averaged over 275 yards of total offense per game this year, led Ohio State to a perfect 12-0 record and the outright Leaders Division title, and was named a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, which recognizes the nation’s top quarterback.

Voted first-team All-Big Ten by the Big Ten’s coaches and a select media panel, Simon is the eighth Buckeye to receive the conference’s top defensive award, following James Laurinaitis (2007-08), A.J. Hawk (2005), Will Smith (2003), Michael Doss (2002), Shawn Springs (1996), Dan Wilkinson (1993) and Steve Tovar (1992). He was also named the Big Ten’s Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year and ranks among the NCAA’s best in sacks (0.82) and tackles for loss (1.32) per game.

An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, Barnes is the second Nittany Lion to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and the first since Curtis Enis in 1995. The defensive end ranks among the conference’s leaders in tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles. He was named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week after recording five tackles and forcing a fumble as Penn State held Navy to just seven points on Sept. 15.

O’Brien is the second Penn State head coach to the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year. In his first year with Penn State, O’Brien led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 overall mark, including a 6-2 record in conference play. O’Brien coached six players to first-team All-Big Ten status, including Allen Robinson, the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year, and Michael Mauti, the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year.

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