Colorado's Miller ready to dominate

Colorado senior guard Ryan Miller has been picked by several publications to have a great season in 2011. A three-year starter, he hopes this will be his best year with the Buffs.

BOULDER - Ryan Miller was expected to dominate at the University of Colorado.

A true freshman in the fall of 2007, he came to Boulder as a highly decorated high school player. Playing for Columbine High School, Miller was the state's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2006. He earned All-American honors from Parade Magazine, USA Today, SuperPrep, and on and on. rated Miller as the third-best lineman in the country in the class of 2007.

It's now 2011 and Miller is entering his fifth and final season with the Buffaloes. It's been a solid career to this point, but certainly not as dominant as he wanted it to be.

"No, I don't," he said recently when asked if he has lived up to his pre-college hype. "I definitely think I have a lot more potential than what I've shown."

On the surface, Miller certainly appears ready to dominate. The Buffs' starting right guard checks in at 6-foot-8, 295 pounds. That's a lean, muscular 295, by the way.

"I'm in much, much better shape," he said. "I'm down from 315-320, to 300-295. The coaching staff has been fantastic. (Director of strength and conditioning Malcolm Blacken) and his strength staff, they've done an awesome job of just working with everyone, more individualized. I feel so much better. I definitely think I'm stronger and I'm faster than I have been. I'll always take that."

Already, Miller has garnered some big-time preseason honors. He has earned several pre-season All-American and All-Pac-12 honors. He's on the watch list for the Outland Trophy (nation's best interior lineman) and the Lombardi Award (nation's best lineman or linebacker). If he has the type of season many are projecting, he will likely land in the NFL next season.

"In my opinion, yes he is (an NFL guard)," said CU offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. "Does he have a long way to go? Yes. But, can he make it happen? Yes, he can."

Miller certainly hasn't been a disappointment at CU. He has started 35 games, including the last 24. A year ago, he earned honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team. Miller played all 847 offensive snaps last year and finished with a very good 88.9 grade.

There's a difference between being a productive starter and dominating, however, and Miller is ready to take the next step.

"It's really honing the offense and understanding the physical capabilities I possess," he said.

CU won't just rely on Miller's physical ability, however. The Buffs lost standout left tackle Nate Solder to the NFL, leaving Miller as the most experienced one in the bunch.

"He has stepped up as a leader, for sure," quarterback Tyler Hansen said. "He looks determined."

The good news for Miller is that he doesn't have to carry the weight of the line. He may be the most experienced, but it's a good unit. Sophomore David Bakhtiari is likely to fill Solder's role at left tackle, senior Ethan Adkins is at left guard, Miller is at right guard and sophomore Jack Harris, who showed a great deal of promise last year, is at right tackle. Daniel Munyer and Shawn Daniels are battling at center.

"Our offensive line is the heart and soul of our team," Bieniemy said. "That group, they work well together. They all push each other and the leadership, holding each other accountable. I don't know if it's one particular guy (leading the way). The feeling I get, they're about as close knit of a group that I've ever been around."

That's what Miller likes to hear. He could have tested the NFL waters this year - and despite speculation that he was doing just that, he said he never seriously entertained thoughts of leaving CU after the 2010 season - but he's in Boulder for a reason. He wants to work with his teammates to try to win and help the Buffs make a positive leap in the Pac-12 Conference.

"This is what I'm here for and I'm extremely excited to be a part of the Pac-12," he said. "It's almost like I'm a freshman again. I know what to expect now, but it's that little excitement of playing college ball. I'm extremely excited for it."

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