Miles switches positions, competes for more playing time
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 01:04
There’s something about spring football that leaves a feeling of hope and possibility with each passing practice. Every year, stories emerge about players getting a first chance – or sometimes even a second or third.
This spring, one of the most intriguing stories in West Virginia’s camp is that of redshirt senior Donovan Miles.
If you haven’t heard of Miles before, don’t be too surprised.
A 6-1, 241 pound linebacker, Miles played sparingly as a defensive reserve and contributed primarily as a member of the Mountaineers’ special teams units.
If you asked him where his biggest contribution to the team was, he would tell you it was off the field.
"On the field, you know, I haven’t made that much of an
impact, but just as brotherhood, and in the locker room, and even with my coaches (and) off the field in the classroom, I’ve made an impact – so I feel good about that. When I do graduate and leave, I’ll feel good about that," he said.
This season, Miles is in competition to receive a lot more playing time than last season – only this time, he won’t be on the defensive side of the ball.
The Stafford, Va., native hasn’t lined up on offense since his days as a tight end and fullback at Brooke Point High School.
Now the optimistic Miles is vying for playing time as fullback after only a week in the new position.
"It’s been tough, you know – it’s a big adjustment," he said. "It’s a learning curve, but with the help of my teammates – (running backs) Shawne Alston, Ryan Clarke, (Andrew) Buie and especially my coaches, it’s been an easy transformation."
So how did Miles feel when he first lined up behind the offensive line?
"I felt weird, being on the other side of that ball after four years of being on the blue side," he said.
"Going to the white side, it felt weird, but once I got over it – it didn’t even matter. I looked at them just like they were on the other side of the ball, just like I look at the offense when I was on defense."
One invaluable tool Miles has had at his dispense during his transformative process is Alston, who Miles has sought tutelage from ever since he switched to offense.
For the past three years, Miles and Alston have been knocking into each other during practice – something that is paying off in a way Miles never previously imagined.
"It makes it a lot easier, because I went against Shawne a lot on the defensive side of the ball," he said.
"I got the best of him and he got the best of me, so I talked to him about the times he got the best of me, and he tells me what he had to do, and I just take some from his playbook and use it."
Alston has enjoyed his new role as Miles’ mentor and has taken an active role in his development on a daily basis.
"It’s definitely fun," he said. "He’s just new, but when he’s eager to learn, you’re just eager to help him out."
In Alston’s opinion, a few words of guidance from an experienced player like himself can go a long way in helping Miles gain confidence and direction.
"I (just) tell him different things that I put into my game to make me better and how I understand things and how I see things and hopefully he will see it that way," he said.
"Sometimes (running backs) coach (Robert) Gillespie can’t do everything, so it’s important we discuss things amongst each other just to see how we see things."
Miles works hard every day to impress Gillespie, who he says has motivated and encouraged him to the point that he knows he can succeed as a fullback.
"The first time when we, as a running back group, met, I was down on myself because I didn’t have a good first practice," he said.
"I was just out there running around, and we sat down that next day to meet, and the support I had from coach Gillespie was just totally beyond my imagination.
"I just want to show him I can get it done."