Miller moves to the middle

ATHENS – Four years ago thinking that Brandon Miller would be selected as an All-SEC would not have been that big of a surprise.

Brandon Miller Profile

It's not a huge surprise today, either, but the journey Miller has taken to wind up there – now as a 257-pound middle linebacker – is.

On signing day 2004, when Miller decided to pick between in-state Georgia and not-too-far-away Florida State, the collective breath was held across the recruiting landscape of both programs. After all, Miller was the can't-miss recruit in Georgia that year. He was a five-star linebacker who had offers from nearly every school in the country. That afternoon Miller picked the Bulldogs and, rightly or wrongly, expectations for the South Georgia star skyrocketed. Georgia fans are pretty good at setting high expectations for their soon-to-be stars.

Those expectations have been a thorn in the side of perceptions about Miller during his entire career at Georgia. Still, Georgia head Coach Mark Richt said, those expectations were unfair.

"No matter how good a player is, he gets over hyped," Richt acknowledged. "No one's that good."

Richt went on to compare the expectations for Miller to those of young Bulldog quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"Stafford is one of the best high school quarterbacks I've ever seen," Richt admitted. "And he still wasn't able and ready to play like a veteran, because he wasn't. It's a huge transition, high school to college, and no one's going to meet the expectations that people have if they're quote-unquote rated No. 1 at their position. It's just, very few guys; I don't know if I've ever seen a guy just play like a veteran right away."

So for the first few years of his career Miller worked on the outside at linebacker – starting ten games in 2005 before giving way to a rotation in 2006 which saw him start five times. His starts-to-games-played ratio was going the wrong way, so the powers that be in Athens decided to make a change.

"Brandon is a very, very talented guy," Richt said. "I think he's going to play great at mike linebacker."

Miller moved to middle linebacker, not to defensive end like many had suggested he would play during the early part of his career. After all Miller was one of the largest linebackers on the team--and bigger than the two ends slated to start at end. It made sense on paper, but Miller and the coaches decided otherwise. Miller belonged at middle linebacker for a host of reasons.

"Brandon is the key to our whole defense in my opinion," Richt admitted. "If he can play big and lead the way he ought to moving into the mike linebacker position, he's really going to be a key for us. He's very talented. He's very capable."

Richt warned, however, that there would be a learning curve for the move.

"When you're playing over a tight end your whole career, and you've either got a ball coming at you or you're chasing, pursuing – that's different from being in the middle and having to be the hit man in both directions and knowing exactly where to fit in that line of scrimmage in these blocking schemes, the twists and stunts and all that," Richt said.

The head coach admitted that Miller was indeed going through that learning curve in the spring and that he still may being going through it during fall camp.

"He was not playing full speed because he wasn't certain of exactly how he was going to fit," Richt said of Miller's move. "But the more reps he gets, the better he's going to fit. After 29 more practices plus spring, I'm sure he'll be able to play full speed. If you do certain drill work where he knows exactly what's going on, he's a dominant player. But when you change a guy from a Sam linebacker to a Mike, there is a bit of a thought process going on where he couldn't be quite as aggressive as he was at the Sam position.

"If he can get comfortable in the role of the Mike linebacker, we have 29 practices to get him ready; if he can play full speed, he can make a huge difference or us," Richt said.

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