Miller leads the way in 2011
Senior defensive end brings experience to d-line
Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 23:04
West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will be quick to tell you how much defensive end Julian Miller has changed.
Since joining the football program in 2007, Miller has made a transformation.
"He came in here as a 215-pound guy, but he's worked, and that's usually what happens. They usually get bigger and stronger as they go through the program," Casteel said. "He's built himself into a good football player."
Now, Miller stands at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds – an imposing force for any offensive lineman to block because of his size and speed on the outside.
"I used to be one of the guys that (defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich) was always on for having good technique, because I wasn't as heavy as anything else," Miller said. "Now, I have the experience and I'm telling these guys what they need to do and to help them out as much as I can."
He's the most experienced defensive lineman on WVU's roster with 27 starts. He is the lone returning starter on the defensive line and one of just four returning starters on a defense that finished second in the country in rushing.
"Julian has always helped me. He's one of the main guys that helped me when we were on the defensive line," said WVU defensive end Bruce Irvin, who is slated to start on the other side of the line from Miller this season.
Irvin and Miller should undoubtedly give West Virginia one of the best pass-rushing defensive lines in the Big East. However, with a three-down-linemen scheme, that isn't necessarily the purpose of the linemen in the 3-3-5 defense.
"It might make it a little bit easier for me since (Irvin) is going to be getting a lot more attention. But, it might make it a little bit harder, because I'll be playing more like (former defensive tackle Scooter Berry) played last year," Miller said.
Last season, WVU's starters, consisting of Miller, Berry and nose tackle Chris Neild, weighed a combined 848 pounds. This year, the projected starting defensive line weighs in 72 pounds lighter, a drop of 24 pounds per person.
"We would have to do some things to help them, but we have to be a fundamental football player either way, it just helps when you're bigger," Casteel said.
The only other players to record a start on the line are nose tackles Josh Taylor (seven) and Jorge Wright (one). It seems Wright has the upper-hand on the starting position. Both are more than 20 pounds lighter than Neild was last season.
"At every single position up front, we're at least 50 pounds underweight against offensive lineman. So you have to have good technique – almost perfect technique – to play down there," Miller said.
Casteel warns fans not to overreact regarding West Virginia's lack of size. He expects everyone to gain weight over the summer.
He noted that WVU has had smaller defensive lines that have been successful in the past. For example, former defensive end Johnny Dingle started in 2006 at 255 pounds. The Mountaineers also used undersized Doug Slavonic at 260 pounds and Miller at 220 pounds in 2008.
This season, though, it looks like West Virginia's defensive line will be the lightest since Casteel started at the school 11 years ago. Irvin will likely play at 240 pounds, and it's likely Miller will stay around 260 pounds.
"We don't tee off until September, so these guys still have a lot of eating to do between now and September," Casteel joked. "We hope to be a little bit bigger football team by the time summer is up."