Houston Miller joined the Texas Tech program last summer as part of the 2016 recruiting class which featured seven defensive linemen. He was one of the highest rated recruits of the class as a Scout four-star prospect and 2015 AP first-team all-state performer at defensive end out of Keller, Texas.
Miller built bonds with teammates and fellow freshmen his redshirt year last season and just completed his first round of spring ball at Tech which he described as a "whole nother world". To complicate matters he switched to a new position as the former rush linebacker moved first to strongside defensive end before sliding inside to defensive tackle.
"Getting moved down to 3-tech is something different," Miller said. "I'm getting to learn a lot more about football, too from a different perspective, so that's been a lot of fun."
Miller played a little bit of defensive tackle in high school, but said it was much different, not as technical. When the coaches came and asked him to move again he said it was a no-brainer.
"Hey, playing time, so of course," Miller said. "If you get on the field, you get on the field and are going to make plays, so I just want to get out there and have fun."'
The young defensive lineman's head may be spinning due to the learning curve, but he's also undergoing quite the physical transformation. At the conclusion of spring ball earlier this month Miller, who arrived on campus measuring 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, weighed in at 270, but added his target weight is 290. The most difficult part of the whole transformation might be how much he has to eat as Miller said he tries to consume at least 8,000 calories a day.
Miller admitted the position change has been an adjustment, but it's clear he improved as spring ball went along.
"When I moved down to three there's a lot of hand work, a lot of striking, shedding blocks," Miller said. "That was one of the things I've always known I needed to improve on, but moving down inside has really taught me to improve on my hands so that's really been a big improvement. When I first came in at three there was definitely struggle I'm not going to lie, it was a struggle to learn those mechanics, but I have just continued to work on it every single day."
Miller was quick to praise new defensive line coach Terrance Jamison for his improvement this spring.
"Me and coach Jamison will work on it 1-on-1, watch film about it, talk about it because it all starts at base, through your hands, through your eyes and I think it shows in every single practice we've had," Miller said. "I love coach Jamison. Just his knowledge about the game is incredible. He's a very intellectual and articulate man."
Miller, known by many as "The Machine" for his work ethic, made news along with a handful of other young players last fall camp for sleeping up at the facility overnight on mattresses between practices and workouts. While he's no longer sleeping at the football facility because the locker room is under construction, Miller said practically the whole team has raised it's level of commitment to reverse the results of what was a disappointing 5-7 season in 2016. Miller credits strength and conditioning coach Rusty Whitt and his staff for holding the whole team accountable and changing the culture.
"The mentality has completely changed," Miller said. "Everyone has understood that this is how it's going to be, the coaches don't mellow out, they're still all over us. Coach Whitt and his staff is still all over us, but we're all accepting of it, so now instead of in the past when you could point out one or two guys and say 'they are really hard workers', now you look in the weight room and say 'wow, everybody is working and busting their (butt)'. Now you can point out the guys who aren't working so hard and they are very few and far between."