"College football is such that you know that they'll cycle out of here after three or four years," Hart told Dawgman.com after practice on Monday. "For a guy to be around as long as Larry was, we were lucky. But we're ready for it and it's time for some new guys to step in.
"I hope (Josh) will do good things for us. We'll find out here this spring. He's worked hard, he's down to the weight he needs to be at, and his body fat is where it should be. He did a wonderful job in the winter program and got a lot stronger. He needs reps now, and we'll see where it takes him."
Miller has come a long way since arriving on campus as a pudgy lineman that got so beat up on the scout team that he had a terrible concussion. A weight room accident last spring further hindered his growth but this April Josh looks like he's making the progress that Hart had envisioned.
"He's strong, which is good. Now he needs to put that strength to good use and combine it with his football technique and play as strong as he is," said Hart.
"Josh got some good work last year, as did Tui (Alailefaleula). We're looking for some big things from them as well as from Terry Johnson. They are young guys that are ready to step up and play. They'll hopefully take the ball and jump up and run. Between Josh and Jerome (Stevens), they both got a lot of reps around Larry so that should benefit us."
Miller is a different player, and is difficult to recognize as that same stocky kid from two years ago.
"Coming in fall camp my freshman year, I came in here with a bit of ‘senior-itis' and that got to me," Josh told Dawgman.com. "When I came in the fall I got into Coach Hart's program. I've dropped 30 pounds since then and actually I'm at the ideal weight for playing. I'm at 270 now.
"My biggest goal this spring is to get up field and make tackles."
He clocked an impressive 4.8 40 time. His quickness has improved by leaps and bounds and he believes that will help him in going against 300-pound offensive linemen. "I look at other defensive tackles like D'Marco Farr and he was about 6-1 and 270. That's right about where I'm at. I'm a strong player (440-pound bench)."
So either he or Jerome Stevens will be expected to take over for NFL-bound Larry Tripplett. Miller can't wait.
"Sure those are big shoes to fill, but I'm excited about my chance," he said. "I'm ready. I know that in my heart. Now its up to the coaches and how they feel about me."
Spring has gone well for Miller, but he sees areas where he wants to improve. "I need to work on my run defense, but I feel my pass defense is pretty decent. My opponents said that I was a good side to side player but not a good up the field guy. My goal this spring is to get up field. I haven't achieved that yet, but I have a few more practices left."
Josh plays the three-technique, or defensive tackle position, which is a new spot for him. "I'm getting used to it, it's a different mindset than nose tackle. At nose, you are always close to the ball and now I'm a bit further away from it so there are different reads. They are different enough, but I think I'm getting it down pretty good."
Miller lines up next to fellow sophomore Jerome Stevens (6-1, 295) and is flanked by junior defensive end Terry Johnson (6-4, 275). They are young, but Miller doesn't buy into using youth as an excuse if things go wrong. "As a whole, we don't feel that young on the defensive line. We kind of feel like vets because we played all of last year. We're not rookies anymore, so we should be ready to go. Jerome (Stevens), Tank (Terry Johnson) and I have always had chemistry. We hang out together off the field as well, so we have a feeling for each other. We had to get used to one another last year, but we're there now."
Johnson has also been getting looks lined up next to Miller inside. "I think that utilizes his speed, out there, but he's such a great player he can play inside or out. It doesn't matter to us. We just want to get it done."