Coach: 'It's His Love for the Game'

The Tar Heels picked up a huge 2006 commitment on Saturday in Highland Springs (Va.) linebacker Jarrell Miller. Inside Carolina spoke with his coach Monday about Miller's recruitment and what makes him such a special prospect ...

Q&A with Highland Springs coach Scott Burton

Were you surprised with Miller's decision?
"I knew about 24-36 hours before. But I knew Carolina was right up there at the top for a long time, so nothing surprised me."

Was it just down to Tennessee and Carolina?
"At the end it was. Obviously I wasn't watching the game on TV, but I heard the reporter on the TV announced a lot of schools were out of it long ago and they were just flat out wrong. There were still five schools in it until right after Christmas. Then slowly but surely, over the next 10 days or so, it became three schools. And finally it was down to just Tennessee and North Carolina right at the very, very end."

What role did Wyatt Hicks play in his decision?
"Long before there was any connection between Carolina and either one of them, Wyatt and Jarrell were friends. So Jarrell trusts Wyatt from the standpoint of being his friend, and therefore Wyatt trusts Jarrell, so he's not going to recruit Jarrell to Carolina if Wyatt didn't feel like Carolina was a great fit.

"Throughout their conversations, Wyatt didn't try to tell Jarrell to go or not to go to Carolina. He just answered his questions, and he answered them favorably because he was being honest. From that standpoint, I think Wyatt certainly helped. A lot of times in the recruiting process, coaches tell you things because they should; but when a friend tells you it's a good place, that has a lot more impact on the kid. I think that was Wyatt's role in it."

Coach Tommy Thigpen was influential as well?
"I believe so. I think he talked to Coach Thigpen and Coach [John] Bunting for a long time. The big thing both of those men have in common is their NFL experience with linebackers, and Jarrell certainly has aspirations of (playing in the NFL). Now if that is only a dream or not, only time will tell. It certainly didn't hurt Carolina having two coaches with NFL linebacking experience."

What does Jarrell bring to UNC right away, and what does he need to work on improving over these next few years?
"I think he brings a love and a passion that some kids don't have. I think you could see that in the (Army All-American game). To my knowledge, he was the only kid to play on both sides of the ball in the all-star game. That speaks to his versatility and understanding of the game from a holistic standpoint. His love and passion for the game, as well as his work ethic, is quite impressive.

"Now what does he need to work on? His entire game; he's physically intimidating at this level, but he won't have that same intimidation factor at the next level. That means he'll have to fine tune the other parts of his game to fit in. He often plays too high, so he needs to work on body positioning. And understanding the complexity of defenses and offenses at the next level is going to be a challenge to him. But he's a student, and I think he'll put the time in where he needs to be. He's ready to get started."

Speaking of "student," is he in a good position to qualify at UNC academically?
"He should qualify."

How did his parents react to Jarrell's decision to leave the state of Virginia?
"His parents have always said the decision Jarrell makes is the decision they support. They've raised him to live by good values, to make good decisions and have good judgment. Now it's time for them now to exercise his maturity and trust in his judgment."

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