Thursday, April 3, 2014


Column: Kansas RB Miller veteran learner

Kansas half-back Darrian Miller (6) runs through the South Dakota defense in KU's 31-14 win against South Dakota at Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

Kansas half-back Darrian Miller (6) runs through the South Dakota defense in KU's 31-14 win against South Dakota at Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.


Looking ahead to his third season as a Kansas University football player and not behind at the two that ended with him leaving to address personal problems, Darrian Miller is happy to be back on the team, slipping tackles with the ball tucked under his arm.

Miller is not behind for having been gone, because KU has a new offensive coordinator, so everybody is learning the offense. In one sense, he’s ahead of most because this is the third offense he has learned. He’s a veteran at learning new terminology and wrinkles.

Chuck Long was KU’s offensive coordinator when Miller played as a freshman, and Charlie Weis coordinated the offense last season, when Miller was a sophomore. Weis, the head coach, fired himself as OC and turned the keys over to John Reagan, wooed back to Kansas from Rice. (Miller was enrolled at Butler Community College but did not play football the year between his first and second seasons).

Miller echoed the sentiments of others who have talked about the difference between Reagan’s spread offense and the pro-style approach taught by Weis. It’s more about the offense doing its thing and making the defense react than vice versa.

“Instead of ID-ing a lot of things, most of the things are kind of planned, laid-out,” Miller said. “I think that’s one thing that makes it more efficient. We’re not making all the calls at the line. It just allows us to play, instead of thinking while the game’s going on. It’s definitely more comfortable.”

That word, “comfortable,” described how Miller seemed as he discussed his return to the team for which he has performed well, rushing for 881 yards and four touchdowns (4.34 yards per carry) in parts of two seasons.

Slippery might be as apt a word as any to describe his running style. Powerful, despite standing just 5-foot-10 and weighing 195 pounds, would be another. He keeps his muscular legs churning.

“I’d probably say it’s balanced,” he said when asked for a word to describe his running style. “I wouldn’t say elusive, but I would say deceptive. I don’t think anybody’s going to get a full hit on me. I’m just giving them a lesser surface to hit. That’s kind of my game. Not elusive, probably evasive. I’m not taking full tackles. I just try to keep standing up.”

Just when it looks as if the play has ended, Miller churns out another yard or two.

Despite the departure of James Sims, who led KU in rushing in each of the past four seasons, running back remains KU’s deepest position. Seniors Brandon Bourbon (5.21 ypc) and Taylor Cox (5.24 ypc) bring size and speed. DeAndre Mann, a junior-college transfer from California, and freshmen Traevohn Wrench from Gardner-Edgerton High and Corey Avery from Dallas Carter High, rank high among KU’s 2014 recruiting victories.

The veterans have the jump on the newcomers in terms of learning the offense, the third in three seasons for Miller.

“Sometimes it’s been a little hard,” Miller said. “Each one brings different terminology and a different style.”

Learning has been easier than it might have been because each of the three coordinators has had the same running-backs coach, Reggie Mitchell, who walks short but carries a big stick.

“Coach Mitchell’s a man of many faces,” Miller said, laughing. “He’s one of the best comedians, then he’s one of the best disciplinary figures, and he’s also one of the most enthused. He’ll keep you up if you’re having a bad day. There’s a lot in that little body. It’s good and bad. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing everything right if you don’t want to see the bad.”

The calm confidence Miller now emits suggests that only a fool would not give him strong consideration when formulating a guess as to which back will take the torch that Sims carried for four years and lead KU in rushing in 2014.


Keith Hummel 6 years, 2 months ago

Let's see if I can get this comment in before the "Show Me" crowd wakes up and accuses Keegs of writing another "Hype Piece." :-)

Darrian Miller's talent has never been in question. Assuming whatever happened last season is behind him, this could be a huge year. Even though he has spent his career in the shadow of James Sims, his numbers have always been comparable. In fact, his average last year (4.8 yards per carry) was identical to Sims. And despite the fact he missed the final four games he was still the team's second leading rusher. What I like about our running backs in general is that they all bring something slightly different to the table. Here's hoping Miller brings that same evasiveness, toughness, uncanny balance, and big play potential we saw in 2011. I believe he will.

Brett McCabe 6 years, 2 months ago

Miller and Cox are the two clear leaders in the backfield and I'm thrilled that we have Darrian back next year. Cox is more explosive and Darrian's style is exactly as he describes it. It's a great one-two punch and I think that these two will establish themselves as the go-to backs for us this year. In fact, our backfield may be better this year than last.

Keith Hummel 6 years, 2 months ago

Agree, and would add that I think Bourbon is poised to do big things now that he is back to being a running back. And we haven't even mentioned Traevohn Wrench yet.

Brandon Mahon 6 years, 2 months ago

I think Wrench ends up redshirting this season unless something happens and he just is a man among boys. But I think Mann will come in and be a big factor. I have said this in other post, the guy is a physical specimen he is a freak. I could see him moving up the depth chart quickly

Jay Beakum 6 years, 2 months ago

Reagan has consistently created very good offensive lines, with less hyped talent. I’m kind of in homer mode already.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 2 months ago

The only one of the 3 football articles Keegan has done this week that is a hype article is the Coleman article yesterday. The defense article was a pretty honest assessment of where the coaches see the defense and that's they have play better to be a competitive defense. Competitive is a coach speak word for average so unless calling a defense's ceiling average is a hype article, that wasn't one.

This article is more about Miller adjusting to his 3rd offense in as many seasons as he's been at KU, the running styles of the other backs, and how good a coach Reggie Mitchell is. The part about Mitchell could be considered hype, except basically everyone on here acknowledges that Mitchell is probably one of the two best assistant coaches on staff.

Jay Beakum 6 years, 2 months ago

...and maybe the best RB coach/recruiter in the country.

Mark Lindrud 6 years, 2 months ago

Show me the money! Just to clarify my major show me has been with the offense, especially the receivers and the line. Anyway, I like our running backs and the skill sets each of them brings. If Miller hadn't left and been more mature the sky could have been the limit early on, but he seems more mature and focused to do some really good things. We have really good depth here and I hope they find a way to get Bourbon, Cox, Miller and Mann on the field regularly. I think it will be tough for Wrench to see a decent amount of playing time except when the game is a blowout. I was amused with your show me commentary though and it is understandable that a lot of us are holding our breath for the rug to be pulled out from under us. Here is to hoping the running game continues be a major plus to the offense and then some.

John Randall 6 years, 2 months ago

Calling the running game a "major plus" astounds me. Basically, every opponent (especially in conference) sat back and said – "Okay, you can run a little bit, as long as it doesn't give you a chance to win."

Mark Lindrud 6 years, 2 months ago

The running game was good. Sadly, if we had a passing game it could have been really good.

Jim Jackson 6 years, 2 months ago

Miller seems very well- spoken; intelligent. I hope he gets the starting nod; his talent is off the chart. De'Andre Mann only has 2 year to play 2; I don't think he is eligible for a redshirt. Maybe a 'medical' redshirt will be possible.

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 2 months ago

so you're saying that you want Mann to get "hurt"?

Just kidding, actually I know what you're talking about. Taylor Cox probably could have continued playing last year after his injury but taking the medical redshirt was wise.

Jay Beakum 6 years, 2 months ago

Bourbon is still number one until he gets bumped. Makes me wonder if Reagan sees a little bit of Charles Ross, Toben Opurum, Brandon McAnderson or even John Cornish in him. Reagan’s had a lot of success with big RBs.

Hopefully he stays healthy. We’ve all been waiting to see what 25 can do if he’s the main ball carrier behind an effective offensive line. He is possibly our most powerful back, and as far as I can tell, the only guy who can run away from the defense if he breaks into the open field.

Don’t forget the RB is going to have to be able to pick up the blitz as well, so size matters. (Not that any of our RBs lack power, but the difference between 225 pounds and 190 pounds is a big deal.)

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