Milligan says his back is feeling a lot better than it was. "It's coming along," said Milligan of the injury. "It's a lot better than it was. It's not 100 percent but it's coming along nicely and I should be good to go by the start of the season. I'm definitely going to play."
The Norcross, GA native has had to battle nagging injuries all throughout his career. His ankle has given him the most trouble but Milligan has endured the pain and become a solid, if not spectacular, performer for the Irish.
Milligan says the injuries are more of a mental setback than anything. "It's really frustrating," said Milligan of the injuries. "I try to get better and do what I physically want to do and then I get little setbacks. That's probably the worst of it, playing with the pain is something I've always got to do - it's more mentally taxing than anything else."
The offensive line has little experience returning other than Milligan and some doubt that this offensive line will be much better than last year's unit. Milligan says they are focused on changing those opinions. "Basically, our goal has been focused on establishing an identity here. We want to distinguish ourselves as one of the better lines that have played here and to try and prove that we can play some ball. It's (criticism) motivated us and I think you'll see that on the field."
What Irish fans hope to see is an offensive line that dominated teams like Florida State in 2002. The 2002 line had it's moments and Milligan thinks this unit can be better just because they've been in the system longer.
"I expect to dominate," said Milligan. "Last year we had a lot of good guys but out on the field we had mental breakdowns at certain points during the season. There was no excuse for it last year and no excuse for us to breakdown again this year. We've had time in the system so there should be no excuses."
Irish fans placed a lot of the blame at the feet of the offensive line in 2002 for the lack of offensive production. Milligan says that has motivated this unit this year to not be the weak link for the offense. "I think we did," said Milligan when asked if he and his fellow linemen took it personally.
"When something goes bad it's usually the offensive line that people want to blame. Whether it was us or not we still take it personally that people have no confidence in us and we want to show that we can be responsible for ourselves. We've worked hard all summer to make sure that we are ready and motivated to prove some people wrong."
The offense as a whole was limited last year because of the learning curve of grasping the new west coast offense. Milligan says that Irish fans should see a more diverse offensive attack this year. "It's still early. We haven't put in a whole lot of offensive yet but I would assume that we would be more diverse with our offense. With two years in the program we are getting pretty good at select stuff and I think we'll have a lot more play selection. That should help us more this year."
The 2003 offensive line appears to be much closer than the 2002 offensive line. This unit appears to have an 'us against the world' mentality and Milligan thinks that will be a big plus for the Irish this year. "You've got to be able to count on the guy next to you and trust the guy next to you. Camaraderie is a big part of that, getting to know your other offensive linemen, it's a good thing for us. We are all closer than we were before and I trust these guys can do the job. It's just a matter of getting comfortable and knowing what the guy next to you can do."
One area of concern for the Irish offense will be the lack of experience at fullback. Milligan agrees this could be a concern for the Irish. "I think it will hurt the running game. We have some great tailbacks coming back. We have Ryan Grant and Julius Jones coming back so that'll help us but it's not all on the fullbacks - it's on all of us. We've all got to make the play. If one person breaks down it all goes down so we've got to be able to count on one another to do that. These guys don't have a lot of experience but I think they can handle it."
The theme was "back to the basics" for spring and finding the right guys to play. Milligan says the offensive line now has to focus on becoming a solid front five. "In spring we focused more on technique and trying to find five guys that will make a play. I think that we have found a group of guys that can play so it's more just getting on technique and working to finish our blocks and to finish the play. We need to come together as a starting five and work on becoming comfortable with each other and finishing every play, every block."
What can Irish fans expect from the offense this year? Milligan says we should see a more polished offense. "I think an explosive offense," said Milligan when asked what kind of offense we will see. "One that can put up 400 or 500 yards offense a game and score 40 plus points. We have the capability to do that and it's just a matter of executing it."
An explosive offense certainly would make all Irish fans happy.