Maurice Miller -

The Ole Miss Rebels were running out of option at right tackle after starter Darryl Harris and backup David Traxler went down to knee injuries. Coach Art Kehoe took a chance on seldom-used Maurice Miller, moving him from OG to OT. The move, to this point, has worked better than expected. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach Art Kehoe admits he had doubts about moving sophomore RG Maurice Miller to right tackle after Darryl Harris and David Traxler were both injuried.

But he really didn't have any other choices at the time.

"It's not an easy move to go from guard to tackle and be effective, but we were running out of legitimate candidates," said Kehoe. "I didn't know if he could do it or not, but we put Mo there.

"We have been very pleasantly surprised with the job he has done. It has been a welcomed surprise, a needed surprise."

To get to the meat of this story, we'll start from the beginning.

"When I first got here, Maurice had problems with his conditioning, in the classroom and just being motivated," Art began. "He was not what I would call an accountable or reliable player at the time. The first day I was here, I had to run him in the stadium."

Kehoe had a heart-to-heart with Mo that day.

"I told him 'I don't get it, man. You are 6-3, 330 pounds, and you are the strongest bench presser (465 pounds) on the team. Why aren't you one of our best players?' I really meant it. I couldn't figure it out," said Kehoe. "I asked him why he wanted to waste his time being out of shape, getting behind in classes and not trying to be good? I just didn't get it because everything added up to him being a good player."

Maurice took Art's words - and challenge - and started to turn his career around, on the field and in the classroom.

"Maurice is a good kid, a really good kid, but he just wasn't motivated in his life," Kehoe explained. "Now, his grades have come up probably a whole letter grade, he's more accountable on the field and in his conditioning and he's turning it on in his life."

Maurice got a taste of what it was like to be the top dog in spring drills, when he and senior James McCoy shared number one right guard duties.

But midway through August drills, heralded freshman John Jerry replaced them both as the starter at RG and Mo once again was relegated to a backup role.

"But you know what I noticed? When John got moved ahead of Mo, he never complained. Not once. He just kept coming, kept paying attention, kept doing his scouting report and kept his nose clean," Art continued. "Then, because of injuries, we had to play him and found out he's a good player."

Kehoe said Maurice is starting to reach his potential.

"Mo has good hands, good feet and good knowledge of the game. He pays attention and learns. I'm very happy for him because we certainly needed him and he stepped up and delivered," Art continued. "Coach O went out of his way before the last game to tell the team that Brandon Jenkins and Maurice Miller were two guys we all needed to use as an example.

"He said they rose up and declared they were tired of not being accountable and started being responsible citizens and players. Certainly, Mo has a way to go, but he has unlimited potential if he wants to devote himself and keep bringing it."

Kehoe said the transition from Mo being a guard his whole career to quickly moving out to tackle is a difficult one.

"It's very hard to do. The average layman does not understand that. Inside, it's a world of hurt - detonating with big three-technique guys pounding you and you pounding them every play. On the outside, you are playing in space and blocking guys who can speed rush or power rush. The ends are the playmakers on most defensive lines in this conference," he explained. "Mo went from having to be extremely physical to being physical and mobile.

"Frankly, we were holding our breath when we moved him, and we are not out of the storm by any stretch, but I'm real happy with what he's doing to this point."

For his part, Maurice likes the challenge and the responsibility of being in the starting mix.

"I was working hard in practice when I was a backup, but not as hard as I am working now as a starter," Maurice said. "There shouldn't be a different mindset when you are a backup versus a starter, but there is. It's human nature.

"My intensity level is way up. I only thought I was giving it everything I had when I was a backup. Now, I've reached a new level and I'm really enjoying the challenge."

Mo understands he has work to do.

"The difference between guard and tackle is that you have to have better technique at tackle. At guard, it's mostly power versus power. At tackle, you have to be quick and make the proper steps and use your hands right or those fast DEs will run right by you," he noted.

How does he grade himself to this point? "OK."

"I'm doing OK but I can see every week watching the game film that there is a lot of room for improvement," Mo assessed. "I have to work on getting my pad level lower, getting my footwork right and I still struggle with my body weight. I really need to be around 315, but I'm at 333 right now.

"For the team, I have to get those things done. It's important, because I can tell you from the experience of the last few games that games are a whole different level of intensity from practice."

Every team has to have "surprises" pop up during the season. Miller and Jenkins have certainly been two pleasant ones.

"It's about time I surprised somebody. I always knew it was in me - I just had to draw it out," Miller closed.

The heart-to-heart he had with Kehoe last February got him going in the right direction.

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