Young Veteran

On many teams, one year of playing experience doesn't make an individual a veteran. However, with the Mountaineer football team counting on several players of just that status for 2009, a full year's worth of gridiron time qualifies them for leadership duty.

One of those players is sophomore defensive lineman Julian Miller, whose 2008 season has helped prepare him to become a leader this spring and fall.

"Last spring, I felt very underdeveloped," admitted Miller. "I still felt like I was learning and everything was new. I was getting missed assignments all of the time. This year I haven't had a missed assignment yet."

The young end had an encouraging start to his career, totaling 21 tackles, 3 ½ sacks and three pass breakups during his first action in 2008. While those aren't eye-popping numbers, they are certainly credible ones for a player seeing his first collegiate action. They have provided a solid base upon which to build, which Miller has done. He has added a few more pounds to his long frame, and currently rests at about the 250-pound mark. That should help him battle bigger tackles on the edge this year, but he still counts the experience as one of the biggest factors on his path to improvement.

It's not just his personal experience, either. The Ohio native sees a change across the entire defense with the addition of one season under its belt, and with it a bonding process.

"I'm loving the chemistry that we're getting together," said Miller. "Last year, we were a bunch of new guys out there on defense but this year is seems like we're gelling together. Everything is going really good on the defense. We hang out together off of the field, too. It just seems like we're getting chemistry on the defensive line."

Like any veteran campaigner, Miller credits those with more experience for guiding him in the right direction, both on and off the field. In his case, it's juniors Scooter Berry and Chris Neild who have taught those valuable lessons alongside him in the defensive trenches.

"It seems like they (Berry and Neild) are stepping up as leaders," Miller noted. "All the rest of us look up to those guys. If something is going on or we need help with something we look up to them. Together they are stepping up."

Miller is using spring as a time to battle for the starting berth at defensive end, where he shared time with Larry Ford a year ago. He also saw some action at nose in passing situations in 2008, and he believes that experience inside will help him on the edge.

"You have to use your hands well inside to get off blocks and get pressure," said Miller, who showed a knack for timing and batting down passes when he couldn't get to the quarterback. "Many of the techniques are the same, and you use them no matter where you play on the line.

"Larry and I are really good friends," Miller continued. "He sits behind me in the meeting rooms and we're always chitchatting. We hang out outside of practice. Battling with him is fun. You always look for that competition because it pushes you to do better. I wouldn't choose anyone else to battle with."

With Berry and Neild drawing praise most every day of the spring, it's up to Miller and Ford to fill out the defensive front and give West Virginia a solid first line of defense – just as you'd expect from veterans.


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