Ready For Anything

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The experiences of the WVU defensive line during the regular season have prepared the front three for what awaits it during Friday's match-up with Florida State in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl.

While position coach Bill Kirelawich's unit will be without stalwart starter Scooter Berry for the New Year's Day, reserve Josh Taylor has already received plenty of playing time this season.

Much of that experience garnered by the former-walk on came when Berry was out with a shoulder injury and for a suspension following an arrest in Morgantown. This time, Taylor will be taking Berry's spot due to the latter's academic ineligibility.

The loss of Berry may impact the amount of quality depth along the defensive line, but otherwise, Julian Miller said he believes the front three will fare just fine with the absence.

"I think we've gotten used to it," he said. "Scooter had been fighting injuries throughout the year and everything, so I think we've definitely gotten used to it throughout the whole year. It's not too much of an adjustment for us this time."

For Miller, the bigger change will be being in the postseason spotlight for the first time. While the third-year junior said he has enjoyed the fanfare leading up to the game, he is now solely focused on the task at hand.

"This is my first bowl game I'm actually starting in so definitely, everything is all coming together and I'm hyped up for this," he said.

"I'd say the whole lightheartedness and having fun just kind of ended last night. It's time to get into game mode. We had our fun here this week. We still have maybe a function or two left, but for me personally, it's game mode. It's time to get ready for the game."

A significant part of that preparation has been aimed at getting the WVU defense ready to handle the threat posed by Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.

The athletic signal-caller, who backed up regular starter Christian Ponder before he went out with a season-ending injury, has been compared by many to South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels.

Daniels torched West Virginia on the ground when the Bulls won their match-up with the Mountaineers 30-19 in late October.

"They have similar qualities and similar attributes for the most part," said Miller of the comparison between Daniels and Manuel. "He does have speed, but he's -- I don't know. He's just as elusive, I would say."

While Manuel will be a threat to gain yardage on the ground on any given play, that doesn't mean that WVU's defenders will be more cautious in their attack. If anything, Miller said he will try to take the opposite approach.

"It made me become more aggressive," he said. "(Against USF), I was more tentative. I didn't know exactly how to or what to do with (Daniels) as opposed to what was going on on the opposite side of me."

"But this game, I know everything -- we've had the experience of playing a dual threat quarterback like that. This game, I think I can play less tentative."

With full-scale practice sessions now concluded for the Mountaineers and only a last-minute walkthrough at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium left before the Gator Bowl, Miller said that focus began to shift away from the physical side of preparation with Wednesday's final session in shells.

Instead, coaches and players will be keying on the mental side of the game.

"(On the last day of practice) you definitely want to make sure you know everything -- know your reads," Miller said. "You definitely want to be mentally ready after today. After this, Coach Kirlav always preaches the game is played from the neck up. It's all mental. So after today, this last physical part, you want to mosey into the mental part."

And while Thursday is technically a day off for the players with the exception of that light walkthrough, the Columbus, Ohio native said that it is just as pivotal as the toughest days of practice in full pads.

"Of course, you just try to chill and relax and get your body rested, stay off your feet," Miller said. "When we go down to the stadium and actually go through the walkthrough, you get a feel for the playing surface and basically hone in."

"It's all up to you after that, as each individual person. I can't speak for everybody else, but as myself, it's all just mental concentration on what is the task at hand."

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