Miller Time

With a lesser known group of linebackers, Florida assistant Bill Miller has continued his trend of success in his first year at Florida. Where will it take him next?....

You've heard of Ray Lewis, the linebacker who led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl in 2000. And maybe you know about Dan Morgan, too. He was the nation's best college linebacker that same year.

There's also Julian Peterson, another NFL first-round draft pick out of Michigan State.

But have you heard of Bill Miller? If you haven't, it won't be long.

Miller, who molded the aforementioned batch of defenders throughout his tenure, is now near wrapping up his first season as Florida's linebackers coach.

However, unlike the deep talent at previous jobs with Miami and Michigan State, Miller has managed to groom what was considered Florida's most depleted unit into a reputable batch of linebackers in less than a year.

"We were picked to be the worst linebackers in the SEC," senior Reid Fleming said. "We had something to prove, and Coach Miller knew exactly how to get our mindset right."

While the corps hasn't posted any incredible numbers, it certainly has been far from the worst in the conference. And considering Miller lost Todd McCullough, the most experienced returning linebacker of an already young corps, it hasn't been easy.

"We've had to have a few guys really step up," said Miller, who has worked with McCullough and Dwright Jackson because of shoulder injuries. "And those young guys bought into this system. They've made it important to them, and they've done what we've asked them to do."

That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise should Miller someday become Florida's defensive coordinator. If and when Charlie Strong jumps to a head coaching elsewhere -- and that's a bigger when than if – Miller has the resume to potentially fill the slot.

"He's a great teacher, a great motivator, a great football coach," Coach Ron Zook said. "It's an unbelievable job he's done."

As a defensive coordinator at Miami from 1995-98, Miller's unit sparked the Hurricanes to consecutive Big East titles. Eventually, though, Coach Larry Coker started to lose faith in Miller's spontaneous schemes.

Miller was fired in 1998. He landed a job at Michigan State, where his success continued. Remaining a defensive coordinator, this time his unit ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten in 1999 and 2000.

"He has great potential to be a defensive coordinator," Fleming said. "He's always in there running the drills. He knows exactly what he's talking about, and he's been around. When he talks, we listen."

Miller, who has spent 17 of 24 years leading the defense, appears to be on a similar path to success at Florida.

Most notably, Miller has helped turn true freshman Channing Crowder into one of the conference's best linebackers – and certainly one of the team's best players. Crowder has led the defense in tackles for the past four games, including his most recent 14-tackle performance against South Carolina.

This all comes seven starts into his career, the most of any freshman in Florida history.

"Starting at two-a-days, he wouldn't let the young guys use the excuse that they were freshmen," Fleming said. "He expected if you came to the University of Florida, you were going to play as soon as you could."

In 24 years, Miller has worked with some of the best, including Jimmy Johnson at Oklahoma State. And in just one year at Florida, he has proven his own success is far from complete.

"He taught us what we needed to do," senior linebacker Matt Farrior said. "We had a lot of confidence in him to put us in the right position. And he did that.

"He made something out of nothing."

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