Miller Sees Similarities in Pac-10, SEC

Some college football pundits claim that there is no better conference in the country than the SEC. Sun Devils defensive coordinator Bill Miller, who has coached at the University of Florida, thinks that the Pac-10 is no different that the conference he worked in the last couple years. In this Devils Digest interview Miller discusses that topic, as well as the upcoming LSU game, the recruiting pipeline to Florida, and the identity of the ASU defense.

"The Pac-10 and SEC are both great conferences," said Bill Miller. "I think the same things that hold true in the SEC hold true in the Pac-10 – teams that can run the ball consistently, and can play run defense win. When you have speed on defense that gives you a chance to win, and teams that have that are the better teams if you look at both conferences."

The ‘pass-happy' stigma, for good or for bad, is one the Pac-10 has had for quite a while. Does Miller, who also coached in the Big XII, Big Ten, and Big East, believe that the passing attack in the Pac-10 is more prevalent than other leagues around the country? "I don't think so," he claimed. "Everybody throws the ball more than they used to. But if you look at both the top teams in the Pac-10, USC and California, they ran the ball pretty darn well. So I don't think that stereotype is true. The Big Ten had that the ‘black and blue' run the ball league. Well, that's out of the window too. I think teams look for balance, and there's a wide spectrum of offenses you're gonna have to defend in the Pac-10, SEC, Big XII, Big Ten…the Pac-10 is a really interesting conference and I'm looking forward to being part of it."

Arizona State is certainly an example of an explosive and complex offense, and the Sun Devil defensive coordinator realizes its value when practicing against it every week. "Dirk (Koetter) does a great job," stated Miller. "I coached against Dirk when I was at Okalahoma State and he was at Missouri. When I was in Miami, he was in Boston College and, oh my, he was always though to prepare for. Just going against this offense in spring time and now in the fall is enough to cause you a lot of problems. But I'll know we'll probably face more problems than this late in the season."

When Miller is asked how he wants to define his side of the ball, he believes in shaping the character of the team in a certain direction. "We obviously want to be a good run defense and a physical football team," he explained. "We want to put our players in positions to make plays and ‘ride our horses' if you will. I think we posses a pretty aggressive mentality. We want to establish our mentality in the Pac-10 and maintain that each year."

The two main stallions in the defensive stable are naturally linebackers Jamar Williams and Dale Robinson. Miller is pleased with the foundation, but realizes the long road that lies ahead. "Those are two good guys to start with, and obviously we need more," he remarked. "Talking to the (assistant defensive) coaches that have been here in Ted Monachino, Dan Fidler, and Mark Carrier, they said they never remember a pre-season like this with so many question marks. We didn't have a lot of those guys in the spring, so you really can't get some of these questions answered. So that's something we have get through."

In regards to the third linebacker, Robert James, who won a starting job mid-way through spring practice, Miller said: "I think he has really come along. I think he has a chance physically to be a good player. He's just in the beginning stage."

Aside from complex and innovative defensive schemes, Bill Miller has brought something else valuable with him and that is a recruiting pipeline to the state of Florida. Two players, tight end Dane Guthrie and defensive end Tranell Morant, have transferred from Florida and will be in the maroon and gold line-up in 2006. "I'm really glad that they're here," said Miller. "They're both great kids and great football players. They're really happy to be here. They're excellent and unselfish kids and really bought into the program. The players and the coaches have really made them feel at home."

In the recruiting world it always seems like a near impossible feat for a kid to play in a program clear across the country from his hometown. Miller however doesn't believe the task should be that hard. "I don't know if kids form Miami are that different than kids from inner-city L.A. or inner-city Chicago."

Speaking of long trips across the nation, Miller will face a familiar foe in LSU when the Sun Devils play in Baton Rouge a month from today. Does Miller expect to see a squad similar to the one he saw last year when coaching at Florida? "Some of the offensive coaches are still there," he replied. "They have a lot of the same players, and that's what I'm looking at. This is the year that Nick (Saban) felt that they really had a chance to win a national championship. It will be a enormous task, but I think our players will really enjoy being in that stadium and that atmosphere. It's a great place to play."

These days the Sun Devil defenders are looking for a comfort zone with the first-year defensive coordinator, but Miler sounds like a person that has adjusted just fine to his new environment on and off the field. "I love it out here," he said. "You obviously have your built-in set of comrades with your coaches, but there's also a handful of guys that I grew up with that are here now, so that's nice. Everybody here has been great. We found a real nice place to live, and the real estate market is a hec of a deal (smile)."

If ASU's defensive improvement is anything like at the rate of housing prices, Miller's methods would have paid immediate dividends for ASU defense. A good investment indeed…

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