Coming out of Washington, some said that Robin Miller's style resembled that of the one and only Mike Rozier. Well, considering where Robin has been since that time, he might as well have followed Rozier's path, went to JUCO and THEN, come on over to the Huskers. He certainly would have seen more playing time.
That's how it has been though for Miller, who when healthy has proven to be a capable back, a physical back and a weapon who seemingly has all the tools to succeed, yet there he was, languishing on the bench and you have to ask yourself why.
Better yet, because of this consistent lack of involvement, why would there be any reason for Robin to think that he should have any better chance to see the field now as opposed to then? Well, maybe you haven't heard, but there were a couple coaching changes in the off-season and it just so happens, it's not just fans who think that something good can come from that. "I'm a little more focused now." Miller stated. "I see opportunities now that I might not have had before this year."
"Everyone is on the same level and they aren't going off what this guy did last year gives this guy or that guy and up or something like that."
Ahhh, the dreaded disease, "senioritis". A nagging problem it would seem that Nebraska has dealt with on both sides of the ball. That lack of acknowledgment of others, because based on what someone did the previous year, they are quite obviously "the guy".
The argument here would seem to be David Horne who as a true freshman saw the field. Well, yes and no. You see, David is from Omaha Central and though he is definitely talented and he's certainly a potential star, it's just too darn easy to put a local star on the field as opposed to anyone else, because hardly anyone is going to complain unless he completely bombs.
Robin wasn't so lucky. Yes, he has had his issues with health, but more than anything, he's had his major issues with just getting noticed. While he's apparently done the work, gone through the drills and seen the same obstacles as anyone else, his performances have gone by the wayside, while others (for whatever reason) get time, while he gets a reservation on the bench.
And now, amongst running backs, he tested close to the best during the most recent performance index sessions at Nebraska. He's healthy and ready to go. At 230 lbs., he has the size and running a 4.68 electronic, he puts that size on the carpet with good all-around speed. Heck, he's got just as good a shot as anyone. Right? After the years of getting his hopes up only to see them dashed, Robin isn't quite so sure. "It has been frustrating." Robin said. "People just tell me to hang in there and get an opportunity, so this year, that comes around where I get that chance to be one of the top guys on the depth chart."
Though the situation is very different, there are at least some parallels to what Dahrran Diedrick went through going into his last season at the helm. DD though wasn't sharing time with another RB, rather a QB that was getting almost as many carries as he was in Eric Crouch. Dahrran went into his senior year with the highest performance index ratings he had ever put up and was in the best shape of his life. It was his time, his chance to show what he could do.
Robin sits in the same seat in regards to his goals, but his origins are vastly different. While Diedrick came from leading the conference in rushing, Miller comes from the wasteland, buried forehead-deep in a depth chart that hasn't been favorable to him, but it wouldn't seem based solely on ability. Frustration well in hand, Robin has found reasons to be hopeful, because with this new staff, he's hoping a new philosophy follows close behind. "The coaching changes motivated me to work a little bit harder." Robin said. "To know it's not going to be the same old thing, I am trying to do my best at everything and hopefully, I will get on the field more."
Within this opportunity Robin sees from the coaching changes, you would also think he would have to see it simply from the depth chart itself. While there is experience ahead of him, thanks to Diedrick getting the lion's share of the snaps early and Horne still being just a sophomore, Miller's shot for time would appear to be there for the taking. "Just being here, I have played in some games off and on and I know what it takes." Robin said. "I am just looking forward to stepping up and playing."
Robin Miller, David Horne or whoever, this year's running game could actually be more dangerous simply because nobody expects NU to run all the time. While every single team loaded up the box last year daring Jammal Lord to beat them, this year, they might not be fortunate enough to have that luxury of counting on such a one-dimension team. That doesn't just excite Miller, it excites everyone involved. "We'll shock a lot of people." Robin said. "A lot of people will come in thinking that we are going to be the same old Nebraska and with us throwing more, I think it's going to open up a lot of running lanes that we can take advantage of."
Obviously, Robin wasn't about to go into any details as to just how those changes would take place, but he said that amongst the things most needed to learn first and foremost wasn't how to run the play, but to learn what the play is called. "The terminology is a lot different." Miller stated. "Our old system was numbered different, but it's like being a freshman again, because everyone is learning new plays everyday."
Robin Miller is learning something else as well. He's learning to actually believe. Not in himself, mind you, he believes plenty in what he can do for the Huskers, but believing that everything he does to be that player ends up mattering in the end.
As I asked him to rate his enthusiasm on a 1-10 scale in certain times of his career at NU, we started with a 10 coming in, fresh, young and full of enthusiasm. Between that time and up to the point of the coaching changes, it ranged around a 4, progressively despairing over situations that he couldn't control. And, now? "I'd say about a 6 or 7." Miller stated. "It's cautious optimism. I've been here long enough that I won't believe it until it actually happens."
"I'm not going to put it all in and worry about stuff anymore. I'm just going to do everything I can, put in my best and we'll see what happens."
What Robin hopes is that he will indeed not find the top of the depth chart, but simply find the honest chance to get there. He doesn't want it given to him, rather just be given the fair shake to earn it like anyone else. And, he most certainly doesn't want to be on the tip of your tongue as you sit at the dining room table, perusing the sports section and you tilt your head up and ponder, "I wonder what happened to........".
Check out the INSIDE NU & RECRUITING board for sound bytes with players like Miller and coaches as we take you through Spring Ball, up close and personal.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619