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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Freshman RB Darrian Miller produces with pop, power

Kansas running back Darrian Miller races up the field for a first down against Baylor during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 at Kivisto Field. The run helped put the Jayhawks in field goal range.

Kansas running back Darrian Miller races up the field for a first down against Baylor during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 at Kivisto Field. The run helped put the Jayhawks in field goal range.

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With the way he has run from the first scrimmage of the spring to last week’s loss against Baylor, it’s hard to believe the Kansas University coaching staff once questioned Darrian Miller’s commitment.

Bradley McDougald, Darrian Miller stepping game up

Kansas head football coach Turner Gill singled out safety Bradley McDougald and running back Darrian Miller for their stand-out performances against Baylor.

According to offensive coordinator Chuck Long, that was the case when Miller, a true freshman from Blue Springs, Mo., first arrived on campus a semester early last spring.

“In the first scrimmage, we thought he had something going,” said Long, referring to Miller’s raw talent. “But he was fresh out of high school, and, at first, we were wondering if he was focused on being here or going to the prom. But he just got better and better and gained more confidence.”

The numbers show that better than Miller’s running style, which hasn’t changed. From his first carry against McNeese State in the season opener to the last carry of his career day against Baylor last week, Miller has run with the same slippery style that appears to be an equal mix of power and precision. It also tends to be rather unpredictable.

“He gets through small spaces, and he’s one of those guys who, once you get your hands on him, you better keep your hands on him,” said KU center Jeremiah Hatch. “I’ve never played for a back like that. He makes us offensive linemen look pretty good.”

Some downs Miller will dash to the outside and use his tremendous balance and vision to juke a defender. On others, he’ll hammer away, head down, legs churning. Then there’s the occasional carry in which Miller is pin-balled around by defenders but never stops moving forward and never goes down. At times, he’s hit four or five times on a single carry before going to the ground. Long and the coaching staff love those carries.

“It’s hard to change that part of a running back,” Long said. “That’s why you recruit him. We liked what he did. We liked the fact that he has that balance and can make the yards after contact so we don’t say much to him in that regard. I know (running backs) coach (Reggie) Mitchell coaches him up on not taking direct shots, how to use your shoulders, how to stiff-arm. But we don’t want to change much more than that.”

The only thing about Miller that has changed during the first season of what seems to be shaping up as a promising college career is the frequency with which he is used.

In each of the last two weeks, Miller has turned in career highs for carries and yards. First came a 17-tote, 70-yard performance against Iowa State. Then came the breakout performance — 147 yards on 24 carries — against Baylor.

“The game has slowed down a little bit for him, and you’re seeing him being a lot more productive,” KU coach Turner Gill said. “We were able to put more on him because he was here in the spring. I think the good thing is he is taking care of the ball. He’s a hard runner, a very determined runner.”

In Long’s eyes, Miller has achieved more during his first season of college football than many of the running backs he worked with in the past, both as a coach and a player.

“As far as knowing more, yes, I think he’s ahead of the curve that way,” Long said. “He’s a smart guy, and he’s starting to understand things really well now.”

The way his teammates tell it, Miller’s God-given ability already has placed him in an elite group.

“I’d like to think I’ve faced some pretty good running backs,” senior co-captain Steven Johnson said. “And Darrian’s up there.”

Added sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb: “He’s got balance like I’ve never seen. For him to keep some of those plays alive like he does, it’s a big thing for us and it just gives us even more yardage. He’s just a spectacular back, and we’re all excited about what the future holds for him.”

Miller clone on tap?

When the Jayhawks take on Texas A&M this weekend in College Station, Texas — 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday — they could very well be facing the future version of freshman running back Darrian Miller.

Like Miller, A&M senior Cyrus Gray stands 5-foot-10 and runs hard. Although the A&M back has 10 pounds on the KU freshman — Gray weighs 200 and Miller 190 — the two have similar running styles.

“They both run very hard,” Gill said. “The first person making contact with them usually doesn’t stop them or knock them back. They still move forward. (Gray) might be a little bit thicker than Darrian, but, again, there’s the difference in age, too.”

Regardless, Gray has the respect of the Jayhawks.

“He probably puts as much hard work in as anybody in the Big 12,” said senior defensive tackle Patrick Dorsey. “Power and speed. He has a combination of both. He might run you over, he might run past you.”

Johnson, Shealy punished by Big 12 for comments

The Big 12 announced a public reprimand of KU defensive coordinator Vic Shealy and senior linebacker Steven Johnson for their comments about a face-mask penalty during last week’s loss to Baylor, which the league deemed to be a violation of the Big 12’s Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct rules.

“Both individuals violated Conference rules that prohibit coaches, student-athletes, athletic department staff and university personnel from making public comments about game officials,” said Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas on the league’s web site. “Consistent with our precedent for such violations, they are being issued a public reprimand.”

Asked about the league’s action after Wednesday’s practice, Gill said it would be addressed internally.

“We’ll talk about it,” he said. “We’re gonna let the officials officiate, and we gotta coach and let our players play. And that’s really about all it’s about, and we’ll move on.”

Comments

Mark Lindrud 2 years, 5 months ago

We get a good article about Miller, who is a freakin stud and everyone wants to talk about refs? Get over it people, please. We have the potential to have a solid offense in the future as long as we can find a #1 receiver and upgrade at QB.

Hope we can improve our defense, which is so far behind.

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troutsee 2 years, 5 months ago

Agree. I just now saw the replay of the face mask and it was a good call. However, the PI at the end of the game was obvious, even on the replay, which even had the Baylor announcers wondering why it was not called. Still a real stink job by the refereeing crew. Hope we never get that bunch again.

Overall, KU has looked much better the last two games, giving us hope, at least, that we might be able to pull out one of the two remaining games. I know. I know. Slim hope but hope at least. A & M is beatable, even down there. MU will be much tougher. Their offense is tough to defend. Long has got to give Webb a chance to stretch the field on first down every now and then. If we keep throwing the dink stuff, it will encourage A & M and MU to play their safeties up close, which will hurt our run game.

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texashawk10 2 years, 5 months ago

I saw a very clear replay of the facemask penalty today on Big 12 replay on FSN and Davis' hand was on the facemask and the receiver's head was twisted around as Davis was bringing to the ground so that was a good call to me. Unfortunate play, but that was the right call. As for the PI that wasn't called at the end of regulation, that's another issue, but even if they call that, there's no guarantee that KU makes that field goal because we don't know what Doherty's accuracy is like from 41-42 yards when it counts because he hasn't kicked one from that distance yet. This loss is not on the officials because the officials aren't the ones who quit playing in the 4th quarter and gave up 21 points to Baylor while failing to run out the clock efficiently.

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jhawkrulz 2 years, 5 months ago

I was hoping that we would fire Vic for those comments...get him out of his contract 2 games early, maybe for cause....personally I think failing to coach the defense should show incompentency and he should be shown the door anyways (for cause).

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Randy Bombardier 2 years, 5 months ago

Love Darian Miller. Love Sims, Bourban, Webb, Shepherd, and others. Just need some good D. We WILL be better next year.

So, anybody thinking what I am thinking about Pinkel's DUI? Like maybe he sees his career being ruined by going to the SEC. I'd be drinking too.

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Funhawk 2 years, 5 months ago

Fun Jayhawk history – Saturday, November 16, 1968.
Source: Lawrence Journal World, November 18, 1968.
Big Headline: KU Squeezes Oranges Out of Purple Pride. Excerpts from LJW articles: -Headline: Jays Nab Intra-State Rivalry, 38-29. Manhattan – Kansas became the first football team ever to squeeze oranges out of Purple Pride here Saturday when the Jayhawks rolled to a 38-29 victory over Kansas State. It was expected that at 11 a.m. Monday KU coach Pepper Rodgers would accept for his team an invitation to play in the Orange Bowl New Year's night in Miami Beach against Penn State. A record crowd of 36,000 fans watched as the Jayhawks came on strong from a 21-21 tie to run their season record to 8-1. With Missouri coming up Saturday in Columbia, the Jays will need a victory to clinch at least a tie for the Big Eight championship.
-Headline: (K-State coach) Vince (Gibson) Praises Kansas. "Kansas deserves a bowl. It's as good as any team in the country and it will make somebody a great bowl attraction. They have size, speed, experience. . . in Douglass they have what I consider one of the greatest backs around. He makes them move.” -Headline: Piano Stops John. Manhattan- It could be John Riggins is jinxed. And, then again, if that piano salesman hadn't been in the stands. Riggins, the hulking 225-pound sophomore fullback from Centralia, rushed for 186 yards as Kansas rode to the Orange Bowl with a 38-29 decision over Kansas State here Saturday. It was the third best single game rushing effort by a Jayhawk — topped only by a 283-yard effort by Gale Sayers against Oklahoma State in 1962 and a 239-yard excursion by Wade Stinson versus Utah in 1950. "I may be a little snakebit,” he (Riggins) smiled in the dressing room after the game, "but I would have been all right if I hadn't stopped to buy that piano. There was a guy selling them in the stands and I couldn't resist." Then, figuring that story might be a little hard to believe, he countered with a sheepish: "Actually I had a broken leg."

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MDHawk 2 years, 5 months ago

The officiating was quite terrible. After a while, I came to the conclusion that these were probably the D-team refs who are specifically sent to officiate the games that either A) don't matter, or B) aren't on TV. The number of reviews required in the first half made me think that perhaps the officials had stopped by a couple tailgates before going into the game, and their blood alcohol level hadn't started to decline just yet.

We should have won that game, but there is no excuse for the defensive failure in the fourth quarter. You have to expect that not only will refs try hard to make sure they don't look like homers (a.k.a. lean Baylor's way on close calls), but they will also naturally tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the better team (a.k.a. Baylor). We made no defensive adjustment when RGIII started marching down the field, and the result is another check in the L column.

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KGphoto 2 years, 5 months ago

Anyone want to talk about Miller?

Okay I'll start. He's a stud! He's one of the reasons I want Gill to have more time. Him and Reggie are bringing them in. A running game is only part of a winning equation, but it's my favorite part, and we have a more exciting group in place right now, than we ever have, in my lifetime. I love watching a great running game even more than a high powered spread offense.

Darrian Miller is an ESPN highlight reel. I see him run and a jump out of my seat and shout something out. I don't even know what I just shout out loud. My wife laughs but then she also says "Sheeeeez. Who is THAT guy? Man he just keeps going". Did you hear that? My wife likes watching football because of Darrian Miller.

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troutsee 2 years, 5 months ago

Worse refereed game I have seen since the Texas "upset" a few years ago. Refs do determine the outcome of football games and they should be held accountable and there should be public apologies made to the institutions that are victims of incorrect calls. Yes, we allowed Baylor to come back by not being able to defend the long ball (a weakness we have had all year). However, those two calls at the end of each half played a huge part in our loss. But, that is the way it has gone for KU football down through the years. Seldom are we the beneficiary of crappy officiating.

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Displayhawk 2 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, I always wondered how this is not a violation of free speech??? Irregardless of whether we are a member of an organization or not.
The refs were terrible, and should be issued a "public reprimand"! There needs to be some accountability on their part. The non-call of pass interference in the fourth quarter was another instance where the refs turned the outcome of the game.

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Jayhawkintexas1973 2 years, 5 months ago

What about holding the referees accountable for calling something that wasn't there? The referees were unethical, if the same standards are to be applied. Hold the referees accountable for making bad calls, because they can determine the outcome of the game, and they did.

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