Irish Eye Junior Offensive Tackle

Columbine high school (Colo.) offensive tackle Ryan Miller just finished his junior season yet he's already grabbed the attention of the top football programs in the country, including Notre Dame. Is there any chance the Irish can bring this talented lineman to South Bend?

Notre Dame is doing very well recruiting offensive linemen for the 2006 recruiting class, but Charlie Weis and his staff understand the value of bringing in quality offensive lineman every year. One lineman the Notre Dame staff is certain to recruit is Ryan Miller.

"Ryan is going to be one of the top recruits in the country. He's a great kid and he's growing up into a pretty good football player," Columbine head coach Andy Lowry said of Miller. "He's a prototypical left tackle. He's 6'7" and a slender 280 pounds. He's got a huge frame and he's got great feet. He's gotten a ton more aggressive and he has a ton of potential. He's as big as a house and he's still growing."

Often physically gifted players will get by on their size alone, and it takes time for them to develop into the player that they will be. Miller had some growing pains when he arrived at Columbine, but after a summer football camp he developed the confidence to he needed.

"He's grown up a lot from his freshmen and sophomore year. Last summer he went up to the Wyoming football camp and he was up there and he had a ton of success," coach Lowry explained. "We go up there as a team, and he was the best lineman at the camp. He took that success and carried it all the way through the season at left tackle for us.

"He's living up to the expectations right now. He had a really good season this year and he's going to be even better next year. He's just going to continue to grow into his body strength wise. He's pretty good in the weight room right now and usually big, tall kids aren't real successful in there.

"He's trying to keep his weight down right now so he can wrestle," Lowry said of Miller. "I think it's great that he's wrestling, because wrestling is a tough sport. It's demanding. It's tough and it's one of those things where it's just you and another guy on the mat. You can't run and hide. I think that has attributed some to his mental maturity. You have to have a lot of pride in yourself to get out there. In his freshman and parts of his sophomore year he got humbled and probably embarrassed at times. But you have to figure out something if you don't like it and he's done that."

With the success that Columbine enjoyed on the field, college recruiters have taken notice of Lowry's program. While the recruiters came in looking at the seniors, they generally left thinking about Lowry's left tackle.

"Last season we had some college coaches come through when they recruiting some of our senior offensive linemen, they'd always ask who No. 73 is right next to them." Lowry explained. "He (Miller) was the first one that jumped out at them. He started putting two and two together as far as what it could lead to and so his work ethic improved a lot.

"Right now, everybody is just starting," coach Lowry said of the recruiting mail coming to his office for Miller. "Most universities know who he is and he gets letters from everybody and their brother. Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Florida State, I think he's gotten letters from just about every school possible. I think CU might have even offered this past week when he went up to see the Nebraska game.

"In fact, Wednesday or Thursday coach Oliver and I think coach Weis are going to stop in," Lowry said.

That statement is music to the ears of many Irish recruiting fans. With the 2006 recruiting class nearly locked up, it is refreshing to here that the Notre Dame staff is starting to turn their attention juniors in early December.

When he Irish staff does have an opportunity, I suspect that they'll enjoy talking to Miller. While Columbine had a successful 10-2 season, Miller understands that if you don't keep moving forward you can't be successful.

"It was definitely a good season, but you can always do better," Miller said of his junior campaign. "We have a lot of seniors that are going to leave us this year and we had very few starting juniors, but I think we have as good of a chance as anybody as long as we work hard and do what we're supposed to do. We need to work hard in the off-season and live in the weight room.

"There are always ways that you can get better," he said of his self-evaluation. "I think I'm best at pass blocking. I love run blocking, and plowing someone over is always fun, but my pass blocking would probably be my strength."

Ryan has played both side of the ball since he was little, and mainly at either offensive tackle or defensive end. While he enjoys chasing down the ball carrier, he's quite happy to play on the offensive line at the next level.

"I love playing defense, but at the same time, I think I'm going to be playing left tackle. If you look at most people my size, I think tackle is my best spot," he said.

"It's a surprise," Ryan said of the attention he has received from college recruiters. "I'm blessed and thank God that I have humongous size, but you can't ever take it for granted, because you never know if you'll have an injury that will take you out.

"I am surprised though. I think the first letter I got was from a junior college in Kansas, but the feeling knowing that people are recruiting you…it's a really good feeling.

"My grandpa played at CU, so I've been a Buffalo fan; Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Miami, and the Florida Gators," Miller replied when asked which schools had caught his attention thus far.

"Notre Dame is definitely an amazing school academically and football wise. Coach Weis is a wonderful coach. I think it would be a great opportunity to play under coach Weis.

"I would like to stay as close to home as possible because I have a bunch of family here. And I want my mom to come to my games because she's been my biggest supporter in all of this, but if I get a full ride anywhere, I'll take it," he said with excitement.

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