Question: When you took a step back and looked at last season, what did the offensive line look at as a unit?
Senior offensive lineman Dorian Miller: “We just wanted to focus on our craft and hone in on the little things. Playing offensive line, there’s a lot of things that you have to improve on, technique wise. Obviously, you could be the biggest guy in the world. If your footwork is bad, your pad level’s high, you’re not going to be able to move anybody. You can move me, if you get into a three-point stance, fire out, you won’t be able to move me. … We’ve kind of hit that full force and older guys are teaching the younger guys.”
Q: The first day when we talked to coach Ash, he said the coaches aren’t coaching up stances and certain little fundamental things as much anymore. Is that a big thing that
DM: “On the field, they’re really just coaching effort and making sure guys are going, as we call it, plus two. As far as offseason goes and meetings and stuff like that, it was a lot of just focusing in on the technique. We went back and he gave us grades from last year and stuff that he felt like we were good at, stuff that we were not the best at and just work on that.”
Q: What have you learned from AJ Blazek?
DM: “He’s a guy that’s going to coach you hard, every day, no matter what you think or what you feel about him. That’s one thing I respect. There’s been days you go at it and — any football player or athlete will tell you — it’s not always going to be a perfect situation. There’s going to be something you think you did right or he sees you can’t see, and I just love that he comes out every day with the same passion, same energy. There’s never been a day where he’s not fired up and ready to go, so that’s one thing I can appreciate and respect, respect a lot. Just the fact that he comes out every day fired up and ready to go.”
Q: How have you seen Jonah Jackson progress? Do you think he is ready to take on the starting center role?
DM: “It feels like we haven’t missed a beat. Jonah, towards the end of last year, he was getting in some games. Obviously, that shows you how much coach Blaz thought of him and this year, there’s been, in my opinion, it hasn’t really been that much drop off. He’s been great, and I just got a lot of confidence in him. I love him, the swag he brings to the line. He likes to talk a little bit. Sometimes I got to keep him under control, but I’d rather him be that way than vice versa — quiet and kind of tiptoeing around. He’s almost too aggressive sometimes and you’ve got to reel him in. I like that about him. He brings a lot of charisma.”
Q: Do you feel like being the leader on the line is your role as a senior?
DM: “Yeah, definitely. I’m embracing that. I’ve always been the lead-by-example guy, especially since I’ve been here. I don’t want to seem like a guy that’s bringing fake juice or seem in genuine. I’ve never been a fan of that, so it’s an interesting role for me now because now I’ve got to step up, be the vocal leader at times. It’s definitely something that was tough at first, but I think now I’m starting to get more comfortable with that. It’s something that I’ve just got to keep working on. I think by the time training camp rolls around, I’ll be ready to get on some more guys’ butts and kind of be the second coach on the field, hopefully an extension of Blazek. That’s what I’m trying to do. He’s been good at trying to help me out at that.”
Q: When you look at the idea of having a new starting center to your right, a guy on your left that’s still developing in Tariq Cole, do you embrace that, being able to show them?
DM: “Oh, yeah, definitely. Tariq, obviously, you guys see him. Physically, everything’s there. It’s just been really cool to watch his football IQ grow, and being a part of that process, anything I can do to help him, it’s great about giving to somebody and seeing them perform. It almost feels like an extension of you, so that’s great. And then Jonah, like I was saying before, it hasn’t felt like any drop off. He’s really brought a different aspect to the line. Last year, we were all kind of mild-temperament guys. Chris (Muller) was doing little slick stuff. He wasn’t necessarily a talker. But Jonah brings a little more energy, a little more swag to the O-line. He likes to talk to the linebackers and stuff like that, so I’ve sometimes got to reel him in and let him know, all right, it’s still your first year, first year starting, be careful, make sure you got the call right before you start talking smack to the linebackers. But like I’ve said, I think it’s good.”