Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 22, 2011

WVU’s Miller seeks to leave his stamp on the program

MORGANTOWN — Julian Miller wants folks to remember his contributions to West Virginia football after he has moved on, hopefully with his next step being the NFL.

He could definitely cement his spot in West Virginia lore with a big game on Saturday night for the No. 16 Mountaineers (3-0) when they host No. 2 LSU (3-0).

“With me I feel like until I leave West Virginia, my stamp on here won’t be (fully) represented,” Miller said.

Miller, a three-year starter on the defensive line, admits to never having that one moment when his presence became felt by the Mountaineers.

The All-Big East performer is hoping many of those moments have already come and he wants them to continue with Saturday night’s tilt with the Tigers that will kick off in Morgantown at 8 p.m. The telecast will be carried by ABC.

ESPN GameDay will also makes its first appearance in Morgantown.

“I have never really personally had that feeling, but I have had that feeling that it is my turn to step up,” Miller said. “As far as a feeling of ‘have I arrived’, not so much, but really more for me, it is what is going to be left when I leave.

“What definitely is everyone going to remember about Julian Miller as a player here at West Virginia University.”

Miller, a two-year starter and all-league performer at defensive end for the Mountaineers, is now starting at tackle for West Virginia.

He’ll face his biggest test at his new position as the Mountaineers will tackle a giant task, attempting to take down the Tigers, who have won two national championships since 2003, and are a definite favorite to do it again.

Yet, the Mountaineers feel much the same about themselves. Upset the Tigers, and West Virginia’s Big East-laden schedule is manageable enough to possibly attain the accomplishment that Miller wants more than any other.

“(I want to be remembered) just as a guy who came out every day willing to work hard and wanted the team to be better,” Miller said. “Not any kind of individual accolades, I am very much a team guy, very team oriented.

“I definitely went out there to try and help this team win a championship. I just want everybody to remember that.”

Miller was part of a stingy defense in 2010, but much of that squad disappeared, including several of whom are now in the NFL, such as Robert Sands, Scooter Berry, Chris Neild and Brandon Hogan.

That unit was among the best in America, never allowing more than 23 points in a game.

“Coming off the defense last year, we had so much experience and so many guys that have played in the system and have been in the games,” Miller said. “Then coming into this year you have guys out there don’t have as much experience.”

Miller hopes to follow in the footsteps of his former teammates and find a place on an NFL roster in 2012.

“That is a part of like a dream come true for me, my ultimate goal and dream is to play at the next level,” said Miller, who played next to Berry for the previous three seasons. “To go see him out there get that opportunity and chance is just really heartwarming to see a guy I almost feel like is my brother go out there and get a chance at his dream.

“Hopefully I will have my chance at that dream too, and maybe there will be a younger guy next year that will be talking about me being there. It was just real heartwarming just to see that for him.”

The NFL can wait. As one of the few players back with playing time, Miller has tried to step up his efforts to help lead a unit that didn’t allow an offensive touchdown in wins over Marshall or Norfolk State.

Maryland did put up 31 last week, but West Virginia held on for the 37-31 win.

“You know you have got to definitely step up as a leader and help get these guys through certain situations so it is definitely kind of a burden on our backs,” said Miller, who has seven tackles in three games, including one for loss. “We have got to step up and be better leaders and be more vocal and help these younger guys and these guys with less experience get through the hard times.”

LSU is known for its defense, which is ranked in the top 20 in total yardage (6th) and scoring (15), along with being stingy against the run (3) and pass (19), and third in the nation in tackles for negative yardage.

Yet, the Tigers also have a talented offense, which has survived through the suspension of expected starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

Jarrett Lee has filled in just fine, throwing for 444 yards and three scores. Spencer Ware (226, 3 TD) and Michael Ford (218, 4) have contributed on the ground, while Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham have combined for 27 grabs.

Russell Shepard, who was a prep star at quarterback, will return from suspension just in time for the Mountaineers, and he’s an All-SEC caliber receiver, and also a standout return specialist.

All that talent runs behind an experienced offensive line that is adept in size, speed and depth. Players like Miller (260 pounds) and sack specialist Bruce Irvin (236) will definitely be undersized in their attempts to stop the Tigers.

For that reason, Miller feels like technique will be vital against all teams, but especially facing the bigger Tigers.

“I try to work on my technique and getting a good punch into the offensive linemen as well as trying to stay low,” Miller said. “I think I just concentrate more on trying to perfect my craft as opposed to just going out there and playing at a less weight and being able to run free lance.

“Playing defensive tackle, you have definitely got to play more focused and more technique sound. I think that is one thing that has changed about my game this year is my technique has gotten better.”

While Miller has moved to a position where tackles aren’t as plentiful — he had 54 stops last year, and 53 tackles in ‘09, along with nine sacks and 14 stops for loss in each season — his numbers will probably drop this year, but he still feels confident his contributions will be many.

The honors should, however, continue to come in for Miller.

“It is definitely nice to get noticed. Definitely you don’t want all your hard work not to go noticed, but you can’t really get into it too much, you just want to go out there and play,” Miller said. “That was what you were doing before you were getting recognized so you figure you go out there and do that again and you get recognized more.

“You just want to go out there, try to make plays and try to help your team.”

Miller has one final season at West Virginia, an experience the Columbus, Ohio native wants to relish from start to finish.

No way to be remembered better than with a win over the mighty Tigers.

“It is going to be bittersweet, thinking about all the memories, all the camps that you have been through,” Miller said. “It will be like, yes, (my senior year is) finally here, but all the bonding that happens within camp is just a memory that you will take out with you.

“It is kind of special and you want to cherish it.”

—Contact Brian Woodson


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