Miller's Time

Beyond the basic desire to win a football game, there was extra incentive for one WVU defensive lineman to try to reach Liberty signal-caller Tommy Beecher during the season-opener.

"I don't like ‘em," said Julian Miller of quarterbacks. "I try to (let them know that) with my pads, rather than my mouth."

The third-year sophomore did just that in West Virginia's 33-20 victory last Saturday. He was named co-defensive champion of the week by the Mountaineer coaching staff after accounting for 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss -- both of which were game-highs.

That was especially impressive, considering the quick drops that the aforementioned Beecher and Liberty used all day in an attempt to keep the WVU's pressure from causing problems.

"It seemed like he just went three steps and then release," Miller said. "I couldn't tell what he was looking at, but it seemed like he either had a key in on who he was going to throw to or he was just throwing in someone's vicinity, because I know I was getting back there pretty fast."

Indeed, Beecher's tosses came so quickly that when Miller when he finally got a rare hit on the quarterback, he didn't realize just how significant it was.

"All day he was getting it out (quickly), with a 3-step drop," he said. "I had gotten chopped on the play and I beat the chop, so once I hit him I didn't even know he had the ball. I just brought him down. When I realized he had the ball, I just got up and I was happy."

While getting pressure quickly is always the top priority for a defensive lineman, that importance is only magnified when an opposing offense chooses to use quick-hitters and other tools to minimize the opportunity for the defense to force a quarterback into mistakes.

The fundamental techniques remain unchanged for a pass rusher in those circumstances, but Miller said that he and his line-mates must look for any edge they can get in an attempt to get into the backfield faster.

"You definitely have to be breaking off the ball (quickly), even coming down to trying to jump the snap," he said. "Any type of little advantage you can get on the snap count and him dropping back into his pass set is an advantage to you that you have to try to take advantage of."

Miller, who was a smaller athlete recruited by some schools as a tight end, has had to focus especially hard on perfecting the moves utilized by defensive linemen. With the notoriously tough-to-please Bill Kirelawich as his position coach, he has had plenty of opportunity to work on bettering himself under a watchful eye.

"Coach Kirlav is always preaching technique, and I think that's one of the things that gets me through, with my size and everything," Miller said. "I may be a little under weight compared to other defensive linemen that played here in the past, but for the most part, as long as I have good technique and good hands and stay low, coach Kirlav says I'll be alright."

The veteran position coach's instructions have gotten the Columbus, Ohio native to the point that he is a solid contributor on a line that also features standouts Scooter Berry and Chris Neild. Miller recognizes the role Kirelawich's coaching has had in his development.

"I can say besides what I've done on my own, he's the other part," Miller said of his position coach. "It's all about him teaching technique and discipline, staying low and everything. Ever since I got here at 205 or 210 pounds -- he saw something in me and knew I could play with technique and leverage. I just follow everything he tells me."

The extra 15 pounds Miller put on in offseason strength and conditioning work also have helped him gain leverage, perhaps the biggest key to play along the defensive line. At 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds now, Miller has now developed a body slightly more in line with a prototypical pass rusher, and he can feel the difference.

"I feel a lot more comfortable taking on a block than I did before last season," he said. "Last season I felt like I was struggling or fighting more to take on a block. Now I feel like I'm just getting into guys, and with all the power I have, I'm pushing them back."

"I felt like I could just run around the field and get around guys (against Liberty).I felt like I was fast enough to beat blocks and get off of blocks with ease. With this added weight, I didn't feel any pressure of getting pounded. I just felt like I was in a good shape."

That will likely come in handy this weekend against an East Carolina unit that dominated WVU up front on both sides of the ball a season ago. Pirates quarterback Patrick Pinkney, a sixth-year senior, presents another challenge to the Mountaineer defenders.

"It's definitely important to get pressure on a guy like him," Miller said. "He's two dimensional. He can run and he can throw. He's a veteran quarterback, so he's going to be there mentally. We want to get him out of his mental state and his physical state by putting pressure on him and getting him down."

And while Miller personally had a strong game in the season-opener, he said his West Virginia teammates feel the need to rise to the occasion as the season progresses.

"You want to approach every game the same, but you know game one is behind us," he said. "Game two, it's time to step it up. We want to step it up every game this year."


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