2015 Play of the Week – Special Exhibition

Game: Buckeyes at Hokies

Play: Braxton hits ‘em with the B-Button Spin Move

Sep 7, 2015; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Braxton Miller (1) runs for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

Like players going to Training Camp at the end of each summer to freshen up their already acquired skills and help prime them for the season ahead, a Movement Specialist can always use the same type of tune-up. And being that in less than a week I will be launching my third annual rendition of my Plays of the Week series for ya’ll, I thought I may have to get a warm-up under my belt so I am ready and revved for action come next week. Fortunately for me, Braxton Miller, of the defending National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes, gave me a perfect play to see if I still got my game!

Now, there were no other plays in the mix for this week’s breakdown…nor do I even enter college plays in my weekly selection process. But, truth be told, I had 8-10 people on Twitter ask me to breakdown this spectacular play so I decided it was only right to oblige. Plus, I could watch this play over & over again and not get sick of seeing it so I figured I was golden that way (as that is exactly what I have to do when bringing you the weekly breakdown).

So, without further adieu, consider this my exhibition game of movement analysis.

What happened movement-wise on the play?

Dear Braxton,

Why did ya have to go do that to everyone?! Especially 11 unsuspecting opponents who didn’t even know what hit em! I know you’ve been away from the game for far too long but what did they ever do to you? Oh…you wanted to serve notice that you are still on a roster that won a National Championship in your absence and that even though you were forced to change positions for numerous reasons, you are still the biggest weapon that they have…I feel ya! So, carry on and show pundits all season long that you should be mentioned in the conversation as the most explosive player in the country!


Someone who breaks down movement for a living

THAT is how I was feeling on Monday night late in the 3rd quarter when the Virginia Tech Hokies were on the verge of building on some built momentum, were threatening to spoil the Ohio State season opener, and when Braxton Miller not only put a team on his back but also dazzled a nation with one of the slickest and slyest spin moves you will ever see. THAT is also how good of move this was.

Braxton Miller starts the play with the direct snap in the shotgun (mind you, he used to play QB pretty well so his comfort level back there is as high as it gets) and starts sweeping left with the flow of the play. Before we really get going and get to the “more exciting” part of the play, I want to give a shout-out to Miller’s acceleration mechanics even in this situation where he is reading/recognizing up field. Many players, due to timing and chaos, end up popping up vertically in early steps of acceleration from the backfield (especially those plays that have numerous options regarding where the player can navigate to)…but if you notice Miller’s kinematics in the first 2-3 steps (not only in this situation but in most others through the game too), are always in attack mode striking with a rapid limb back & away. This intention then serves him well to hit such high speeds as quickly as he does.

When he passes his own 45 yard line many other players would be dead in the water already, but Miller is first getting started as gaps close and “containment” (I use that word here loosely) occurs. But because of Miller’s comfort in the open field, he performs a higher COG crossover at #40’s point of attack which forces Miller to head south briefly before traveling towards the sideline so he can get some real estate to operate with.

There (once again near the 45 yard line) he is able to get the edge and uses a sharp unilateral speed cut (off of his left) with an open reacceleration step (with his right) to a slightly curvilinear running action at this point (this is why training for speed on a football field isn’t always about running directly in a straight line!). As you can see, he gets up to pace in a blink and covers the next 10 yards in a hurry (from 45 to 45).

Sep 7, 2015; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Braxton Miller (1) runs for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

At around the Hokie’s 47 yard line, you can see Miller scanning and processing to his right where he sees two Hokies with a single thing on their mind: putting a stop to these shenanigans and laying the lumber with a head of steam. But yet…little did they know the shenanigans where just beginning. Because Miller is able to focus his visual gaze as needed (a difference between good movers and elite movers), he combines this perception with a slight deceleration movement action. It’s these coiling deceleration mechanics that will serve as the foundation for everything else that is yet to come where he shortens up his stride (as he is straddling the 45 yard line) into one of the most crisp lunge deceleration patterns you will see. This leads to an extreme amount of stretch-shortening cycle energy being stored to make for a more efficient re-utilization into the move everyone was waiting for.

Now, I often talk about every movement being different (even if ever-so-slightly) from every other time a similar movement solution was utilized by that same athlete attempting to overcome a particular motor problem in one’s sport. It’s like a fingerprint of who that player is at that exact moment in time…their Human Movement System organizing a unique solution particular to that ever-changing environment that we see in front of us.

Still, some movement patterns executed on a football field appear rather routine and differ so slightly that they go unnoticed to viewers. Well, I think it’s safe to say that when Miller utilized the filthy spin move Monday night, everyone knew that it was different from any other that he probably has ever executed. The most masterful of movers (i.e. LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Antonio Brown, Earl Thomas) are the ones who happen to always have full control of the emergent movement pattern and thus can ensure (whether consciously or unconsciously) that biomechanics of the pattern is one of efficiency & effectiveness.

Additionally, the most masterful movers also have dexterity and degrees of freedom in not only their technical movement execution (biomechanics of a respective pattern) but also in their strategy usage. I haven’t watched a ton of Miller highlights in previous years but I would have to assume that in situations such as this he would probably usually execute a tighter speed cut (could be either unilateral or bilateral).

Instead, in this situation, Miller appears to be just waiting for the right time to hit that “B-Button” and spin himself through a mode only found on a video game (and in Barry Sanders or Marshall Faulk highlight tapes).

Sep 7, 2015; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Braxton Miller (1) runs for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Miller actually enters the cutting action in a slightly off-balanced (with his shoulders off to his left side) position that as his foot lands he must take a little longer than he probably planned or than what would be “optimal” to truly change his momentum as his heel strikes and he is required to absorb/dissipate some of the forces briefly (b/c he was at such high initial speeds). But the strong striking of his left foot down hard into the turf literally applied enough force, quickly enough, to propel his body and both feet to leave the ground, his body spinning, and actually traveling several yards.

Though I wouldn’t often recommend players completely leave the ground as he did here as it leaves someone vulnerable to get ear-holed by other defenders…obviously the environmental & task situation allotted for it in this instance. Additionally, often when players execute spin moves they do so with a lower pad level position and are also absorbing contact. In this case, Miller wasn’t even touched so obviously the balance demands were unique with this particular spin move.

He ends up landing from the figure skating on turf spin with his left foot down and is almost immediately back into his linear running mechanics though he is slightly off balance for the first 3 steps but by this point no one else has a chance of bringing him to the ground.

Braxton spin 6

For the next 15 yards we can marvel at the technical efficiency of Miller’s linear mechanics which were superb and show another reason why he is, as I said above, considered one of the most explosive players in the country. From there, it’s off the races and he finishes the play by hitting them with the silencing act and rightfully so…as if you would’ve just done that you should feel free to give the crowd a little taste of #1 too.

Braxton spin 3

Unless you’ve been missing in action since Monday night, you’ve already seen the highlights of the play…but you don’t need to be a football movement junkie to enjoy it on repeat…so here it is:



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