EKU's Miller wants to get back on field more

April 27, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

RICHMOND - Matt Miller made great strides in his first season at Eastern Kentucky University, but he's focusing on much smaller steps these days.

After a sophomore season that saw him slide down the depth chart at wide receiver, Miller is concentrating on what he needs to do to get on the field more often this fall.

The Boyle County High School graduate would like to do far better than the nine receptions he had in 2003, but he said he won't measure his improvement in raw numbers.

"I'm not really setting any goals," he said. "I really just want to get back into the rotation and playing again. It's small steps first."


Most of Miller's movement last season was in the wrong direction, though it was through no fault of his own. The offense changed as Danny Hope installed his own system in his first year as the Colonels' coach, and it was a tough transition for Miller.

The former high school sprint star has always thrived in football as an all-out runner best suited for long routes. When he got to Eastern, he found that former coach Roy Kidd's offense relied on those long routes to establish the run.

Colonels throw more often, but the routes are often shorter

But that changed when Hope moved in. Eastern throws the ball more often now - 44 percent of its plays last season were pass attempts, compared to 29 percent in 2002 - but the pass routes are often shorter.

"My strength has pretty much always been with a running style of offense," Miller said. "We ran the ball a lot my first year, and it worked perfect for me. Now we have all this short stuff, and I haven't really adjusted to it yet. That's probably the biggest thing that hurt me last year."

Miller was Eastern's leading receiver as a freshman, when he started nine of 12 games and caught 37 passes for 640 yards and five touchdowns. He even rushed for another 55 yards.

But he played in only seven of the Colonels' 12 games last year, catching nine balls for 162 yards and seeing the field less and less as the season wore on.

"It was a pattern I wasn't used to," he said. "You've got to change your style of running."

Miller still has the blazing speed, but he knows that isn't enough any more, and he said he has been running patterns with cones and using other drills that should improve his agility and his ability to start and stop in a hurry.

"They want me to run a 4.3 and be able to break down as fast as I can," he said.

Miller said Eastern's coaches were patient with him during spring practice as they tried to help him become a different kind of runner.

"This spring was really important for me," he said. "The coaches have been working with me a whole lot on my routes."

He fell back on advice from Smith

Miller admitted to some discouraging days, and he said during those days he fell back on advice he got from his coach at Boyle, Chuck Smith.

"Coach Smith taught me when adversity strikes, you've got to face it," he said. "I just had to do the best I could, and when I got a chance to get out and play, I did that."

Miller said he sought counsel with Smith and other Boyle coaches during the winter.

"They talked to me about coming out here and having a good spring," he said. "I've been getting a lot quicker on my routes. I'm pretty confident that next season I can do a lot better."

Eastern has a gifted group of receivers that includes last year's top two receivers, all-Ohio Valley Conference first-teamer Allen Evans (46 catches, 446 yards) and second-teamer Andre Ralston (59 catches, 1,082 yards), plus two other receivers, Andre Green and Jeff Barrett, who had more catches than Miller last season.

"We have an excellent core of receivers," he said. "Our receivers are probably the best in I-AA. The guys who have been playing all have a few years under their belt.

"To get back (in) that rotation would say a lot about the receiving corps in general."

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