When it comes right down to it, so much about recruiting is based on the notion of "comfort".
The coaches have to be comfortable with a prospect before they offer a
scholarship. The player has to be comfortable not just with the
coaches, but with the school, campus and the team. And, of course, moms
are always on the lookout for their son's well-being, and have to be
comfortable with it all.
The Kansas coaching staff obviously felt good about Darrian Miller, and
they weren't alone. After a season in which Miller played a key role in
nearby Blue Springs (MO) High School's run to the Class 6 state title
game, a number of big-time programs began to take notice of the
talented junior running back.
Miller's 2,800 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns on the season led to his
selection as the 2009 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year, and he soon
boasted scholarship offers not just from Kansas, but from the likes of
Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Louisville and Kansas State.
But the more Miller visited the KU campus, spending time with players
and coaches, the more comfortable he felt, and the Feb. 13 Junior Day
event pushed the Jayhawks to the top of his list.
"After that it was pretty much a done deal," Miller said. "I didn't
even look anywhere else."
Of course, the Jayhawks started the process with a leg up, and once
again it all came back to comfort. Miller had already formed a tight
bond with current KU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator
Reggie Mitchell, while Mitchell was still on the staff at the
University of Illinois.
Up to that point, Miller said, he wasn't sure how closely he would look
at KU. Sure he had fellow BSHS Wildcat, and current KU signee, Keeston Terry, telling him to look at the Jayhawks.
But when Mitchell joined the Kansas staff, the Jayhawks instantly
garnered serious attention.
"The thing about Coach Mitchell, if I ask him anything he gives me
straight up answers," Miller said. "He doesn't beat around the bush.
That's one thing I really respected about him. He's really family
oriented, and he was really happy to meet my mom. They instantly got
In the weeks that followed, Miller made additional visits to the KU
campus, bringing his mom along for the chance to meet and speak with
Mitchell, Head Coach Turner Gill, offensive coordinator Chuck Long, and
many other coaches and players.
It just felt like the right fit, he said, and while soaking in the
atmosphere at the KU basketball team's March 3, he decided to put an
end to his recruitment.
"It just felt right," said Miller, Kansas' first commitment for the
2011 class . "It's where I want to be."
But what kind of player are the Jayhawks getting? The numbers are
extremely impressive, no doubt, but how does his game translate
athletically to the Big 12?
To hear BSHS head coach, and former Kansas quarterback, Kelly Donohoe
tell it, the answer is "very well indeed."
"Darrian is just a true 'line up and I'm going sic you' tailback,"
Donohoe said. "He's got a great physical presence, plus he can run
fast. He'll run by you, he'll run over you."
When asked to describe his play, after considering for a moment Miller
offered up the phrase "home run hits," and it's hard to argue with that
assessment. Miller racked up almost 3,000 rushing yards in 2009,
despite only playing in four full games. As the Wildcats blew out
opponents, he would frequently take 200 first-half rushing yards with
him to the bench for the rest of the game.
Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing in at more than 190 pounds, Miller
still possesses speed to burn – clocking a 4.47-second forty-yard dash
prior to his junior campaign.
Now, preparation begins for another run at the Missouri Class 6 State
Championship, including weight training, speed and agility work, and
participating in the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams for BSHS track and
With the loss of a slew of seniors, including the high-profile Terry,
there are those doubting the Wildcats and their ability to duplicate
last season's success.
If team leaders like Miller and fellow KU recruit Bernard Thomas have
anything to say about it, however, the doubters are in for a surprise.
"Honestly, some people think it's a re-building year, but I don't think
so at all," he said. "We have a lot of returning people, plus I'm
looking for other guys to step up. I don't see us anything short of –
hopefully – going all the way."
"It's where I wanted to be."
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