Chance to Recover

Earlier this week, WVU football players and coaches, almost to a man, expressed their desire to be on the field this weekend. Instead, the Mountaineers get their first bye week of the season. It's a chance to mull a bit more over last week's loss at LSU, but it's also a critical opportunity for the team's walking wounded to get some needed rest.

The bye couldn't come at a better time for defensive lineman Julian Miller, who had been dealing with muscle tightness in his back that gradually worsened throughout the opening four weeks of the season.

"Against Maryland, my muscles just kind of said, ‘Ah! This is as much as we can take,'" Miller said. "It definitely got me real tight. It's a built-up type thing. The longer it takes to build up, the longer it takes to heal when it does happen. That's what [team trainers] kept telling me."

That was one reason Miller didn't expect to play at LSU at all in the early portion of the week leading up to the game.

But trainers put him through a series of workouts -- from different stretches, to exercises with water resistance in the team's recovery pool -- that helped the Columbus, Ohio, native make strides faster than he thought possible.

"I'm progressing a lot," Miller said. "Just in that one week, I didn't think I would be that far, to even be able to play. But our trainers downstairs definitely are doing a great job and I really commend them for that."

Indeed, the junior ultimately did see action at LSU, limited though it was.

He yielded his every-down work, as Scooter Berry slid over to take his starting spot and Jorge Wright came into the line-up at Berry's normal tackle spot. But in obvious passing situations, Miller came in to try to get pressure on the Tigers' quarterbacks.

It wasn't easy, as the Mountaineers' starting defensive end felt considerable pain in his back throughout the process.

"When I was out there, I wouldn't say it was every step, but every other step I could feel something," said the junior multidisciplinary studies major. "And then especially contact, you know what I'm saying, a hit, I could definitely feel something.

"So for the most part, almost every movement was pain-filled. But I wanted to be out there with my teammates. I wanted to contribute to the team. So that's what really got me through."

Miller's pain was evident throughout the contest, as even the simplest tasks, like standing and sitting, were apt to make his back muscles stiffen and tighten to the point of agony.

On the advice of West Virginia team trainers, he spent much of his time on the sidelines laying flat on his back, trying to stretch and keep himself as loose as possible. Beyond that, there was little that could be done during the game to help Miller through his pain.

"I had to ride with what I had," he said.

"I just kept thinking, ‘I wish I could be out there. I know I should be out there playing.' But it was a better move for me, you know what I'm saying, to not play as many reps and not start. [It was] for the better of the team, not to go out there and just get a more severe injury or not be able to produce like I normally could have."

Indeed, Miller avoided further injury in his limited action at LSU and seemed confident that he would be back to full strength in time for Saturday's game against UNLV.

The defensive lineman reiterated that he thought he could "get to 100 percent" in the near future, and said the problems would "definitely not" linger throughout the rest of the season (even despite the propensity of back issues to do so).

"I knew [coming into the LSU game] there was a possibility I may not play," Miller said. "But what [trainers] have been doing downstairs, to speed the recovery like I've gotten, I'm happy to be able to move and do what I can do now."

"It's definitely helping a whole lot. Those guys downstairs are doing a real good job."

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