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Braxton Miller and Fellow Buckeyes the Talk of Senior Bowl Practices
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — With the NFL Draft coming this spring, one of the first opportunities for the pros to fully evaluate prospects comes at this Saturday's Senior Bowl, and the week of practices and interviews that come before it.

That evaluation, it turns out, has gone very well for the five Buckeyes participating this week. Throughout the first two days of practice, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett, Adolphus Washington, Tyvis Powell and Joshua Perry have all earned praise for their performances.

None more so than Braxton Miller, however.

Anybody who has ever seen Miller on the football field knows that he is an incredible playmaker, but with his performance at the Senior Bowl practices this week, he may have finally turned into an incredible wide receiver.

"There’s so many athletes out there, but then there’s Braxton Miller," said CBSSports.com's draft scout Dane Brugler. "He’s a step above these guys. That’s no throwing shade on the other guys it’s just that Braxton Miller is so elite as an athlete – the body control, short-area quickness, the long speed – it’s all there.

"Obviously, he’s still raw and you could see that in his routes. He needs to learn better nuance, how to use his hands but a player that moves like he does … and he caught everything. I think he’s a natural athlete with quick reflexes.

"It’s all there on display so we’ll have to see how he improves throughout the week but he set the bar pretty high in that first practice."

ESPN.com's Matt Bowen agrees.

"Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller has put on an absolute show through the first two days of Senior Bowl workouts," he writes. "At an official 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, the former Buckeye quarterback has generated a tremendous amount of buzz here in Mobile because of the effortless movement in his game, the sudden change-of-direction ability he displays on the field and his rare athleticism.

"With only one year of experience at the wide receiver position in college, I expected Miller to show some signs of choppiness in his route running, a gradual learning curve at the position that would need to be polished under pro coaching. But Miller displays the body control and flexibility to get out of his cuts to separate to the ball. It doesn't hurt that he's a top-five athlete in this draft."

Miller has shown an ability to beat his man repeatedly in one-on-one drills and is catching everything thrown his way. He has even earned raves for his punt returning, which he had only done in practice at Ohio State.

"Braxton Miller is the most natural punt returner that I've seen in years," said NFL Network's Bucky Brooks. "He catches the ball effortlessly with his hands and looks like a veteran judging the ball in the air. With Miller also displaying improved route-running skills and impressive ball skills, he could make an immediate impact as a multipurpose playmaker."

Projected anywhere from the second to fourth round, Miller's performance has only helped those projections. With continued outstanding play through the weekend, who knows where he could end up. And he hasn't even run a 40 at the NFL Combine yet.

If Miller has been the talk of the practices so far — and he has — then tight end Nick Vannett has been the Braxton Miller of the tight end position.

Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but it gives you an idea of how impressed and possibly surprised the scouts have been in Vannett's play to this point. He has likely solidified his spot as the top senior tight end in the draft.

"Nick Vannett had an awesome day of practice Tuesday," said NBCSports.com's Josh Norris. "I'd expect that to continue. His comfort as a receiver, even contested, stood out."

Those accolades continued on Wednesday as onlookers were impressed with his agility and athleticism on his 6-foot-6 frame.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tuesday was also a good one for defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.

"There is yet to be a North offensive linemen to block Adolphus Washington. Been explosive all day," wrote Bryan Broaddus, who covers the Dallas Cowboys.

He was not alone in singing his praises, as NFL Network's Mike Mayock was also supremely impressed with Washington's first day showing.

"The topper was Adolphus Washington from Ohio State," he said. "He was all over the field in one-on-one drills; he was too quick, too stout. He was great in team drills. I thought he put on a show."

Linebacker Joshua Perry was doing well also, showcasing his always solid play and impressing those in attendance. He measured in at 6'3 3/4" and 254 pounds, which the scouts will like as well. A groin injury, however, has forced him to pull out of the Senior Bowl.

Safety Tyvis Powell hasn't been mentioned as much as Miller, Vannett and Washington, but few players at the Senior Bowl have. Powell measured in at 6'2 3/4" and 209 pounds, and a safety at that size is always going to intrigue NFL teams.

Powell hasn't done anything to hurt his stock and there is no doubt that he will only help himself when the teams actually sit down and talk to him.

There has also been a former Buckeye who has excelled this week, and that is defensive end Noah Spence, who transferred to Eastern Kentucky after leaving OSU prior to the 2014 season.

Spence is projected by some as a first round pick. His burst and athleticism combined with his balance and strength have impressed those in attendance.

Had he not gotten into trouble at Ohio State, he likely would have been a first round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. It looks like he will get there anyway, just a year later than expected.

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