Chargers to move Milligan?

Hanik Milligan never wanted to be a one trick pony that excelled in special teams, but was missing from the San Diego Chargers defensive package. While one may have opened doors for the other, in his mind playing on defense is where he will make his mark. Injuries or not, he already has lofty goals for next season, but will he play free safety or strong safety? We have the answer.

"(Playing defense) is where I think I really will stick out," Hanik Milligan said. "My goal is to start next year. I feel in my heart, as long as I continue doing what I am doing, the same in season as in preseason that I will start next year."

The question is, where will he start? Last season, Terrence Kiel took over the strong safety spot after he recovered from gunshot wounds and Kwamie Lassiter went to injured reserve. Jerry Wilson played at free safety, but does not figure to be back for next season.

Lassiter has generally played free safety and will likely return to that spot next season.

Where does that leave Milligan?

"Before the injury I was at strong, but I think I will be at free safety next year."

At free, in a battle for a starting job with the man who helped him so much last year. It is not about making enemies on the field. In coach speak, it is about placing the playmakers on the field and allowing them to make plays.

One part of the plan to start is to gain weight this offseason.

"I will probably put on at least ten more pounds. I can wear it well."

Regarded as one of the hardest hitters during his college football career, the 6-2 Milligan is looking to enter camp in the 210-215 range. What he does not want is to be stigmatized and be labeled as a player that can only stop the run.

Scouts said he seemed best when the play was in front of him and he could react. In other words, he can't stay with his man in pass coverage.

"Since high school all they know me for is my run stopping so my goal is to be fully balanced next year to stop the run or the pass. Those are my goals for next year."

His former defensive coordinator in Houston, Dick Bumpas, said he is a, "good student of the game." It is a legacy that Milligan hopes will propel him into a starting role and offer him the chance to become well balanced.

"I think it is my preparation both in the film room and on the field – just being coachable and buying into the system and doing the things that they tell me to do that will help me be successful. I think all those things wrapped up in one."

Preparation begins now as he rehabs from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in preseason while playing the Houston Texans.

Do the coaches have confidence in him considering he missed his rookie season?

"They know it was hard, very difficult for me not being able to play. They said to keep my head up and just get ready. Part of the plan is to have a great offseason, stay focused and get better.

Milligan believes he has an advantage heading into 2004. With the addition of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator, every guy on the team is essentially starting over. That will give everyone an equal opportunity to start.

"I think that will benefit me," Milligan said of the addition of Phillips. "Guys who played in here last year will have to learn the system just like me. We can all start anew and it is just like preseason again."

The key to it all will be communication. The Chargers defense has not won many awards in the past two years and it prompted change. Phillips brings a more aggressive defensive style of play and each step along the way will be important towards developing a rapport that will be carried over into the season.

"Being able to communicate as one – as a whole – will be big to our future."

One thing Milligan has already communicated, and he was clear about it:

He wants to be the starting free safety for the San Diego Chargers in 2004 and beyond. What he does this offseason will truly identify whether that will happen or not.

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