Attention to Height

Sophomore defensive lineman Julian Miller has always caught attention due to his lanky frame, but this year he's just one tall player among many on the Mountaineer defense in 2009. At six feet, four inches, Miller was the tallest player on Bill Kirelawich's squad a year ago, but no he no longer towers over his teammates.

With the introduction of players such as freshman Curtis Feigt, Will Clarke and Jonathan Scott Miller no longer sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. He is pleased to see the added height to the defensive line and believes that it will be beneficial to WVU's play.

"Having height on the d-line is always an advantage," said Miller, "like Coach [Kirelawich] tells us all of the time. It's like a taller guy would have more power than a stubbier, shorter, heavier guy because it's just like power angles and firing off into somebody. So I guess one of the biggest advantages that height will bring is just getting in the way of the quarterback and leverage."

There are some disadvantages to the added height possessed by players such as Miller, Feigt, and Clarke. Being on the defensive line requires players to get low to use leverage to their advantage, which is obviously more difficult for taller members of the line.

"One of the main things that we have been working on in camp is for us taller guys to be able to stay low and play low," said Miller. "That's one of the main things with the technique that we learn here is staying low and playing with our hands. When you're tall that is obviously going to be more difficult." That task isn't insurmountable, however. Tall players that can get their pads low and win the battle in the trenches, then explode to use their height to its best advantage in disrupting passing plays and obscuring the quarterbacks vision, often have professional careers awaiting them. West Virginia hasn't been blessed with a great number of such players in its recent past, but a trip a bit further back yields defensive linemen such as Renaldo Turnbull and Mike Fox – players that developed from raw beginnings to NFL level talent.

While it's too soon to predict such a future for Miller and his lanky freshman teammates, the potential does appear to be there. All three have the physical tools to blossom into good pass rushers that can also stand their ground against the run. That is a long process, but it's a goal that the trio could reach.

In the meantime, Kirelawich is working with all of his players with an eye toward developing quality backups. Feigt and Clarke have a long way to go in order to get on the field, and will likely be redshirted this season, but they are working diligently to improve.

"We did a lot of work over the spring," Miller noted. "One of the main things, going into the spring, was finding the two deep. I guess the guys behind the first team have really been working hard and getting all of their assignments down and learning to play low and with their hands. For the most part, everyone is just working on technique and learning the plays."

Despite the defense being highlighted as a focal point of this year's Mountaineer squad, Miller is quick to admit that the offense has had some high points early in fall camp.

"The first few days of camp have gone well, "said Miller. "The defense looks like they're executing. As a defensive line, we're doing pretty good. Everyone is working on getting better every day. I would say for the most part everything is going pretty smooth. You have the offense doing good in certain parts and you have the defense doing good in certain parts. It hasn't really been dominated by one side of the ball so far."

With one year of playunder his belt, in which he recorded 21 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three pass breakups, Miller is already a leader to the underclassmen that have just gotten to Morgantown. Although he has been impressed with their efforts, he admits there's still a long way to go.

"For the most part the freshmen are doing pretty good," said Miller. "They're studying the playbook and learning their assignments and when they get out there they're making an effort to try to get everything right. That's what Coach Kirelawich keeps preaching -- effort. There's a lot of effort going on. I see them having the same trouble and struggles that every freshman has. I went through it. Everyone who came along with me went through it."


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