The Kansas Jayhawk defense has already seen a fair amount of change in the early days of the offseason. Obviously we had the departure of the senior linebacking class of Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera and James Holt, but we also had the departure of two of the coaching staff. Much to the satisfaction of other staff members, players and fans it would appear that we have upgraded those two spots and a potentially stronger unit will emerge with time because of it.
The first hire made in the offseason came as a bit of a surprise. Many expected and knew of the need to replace a defensive line coach but few saw the hiring of Bill Miller as the linebacker coach. Miller had recently accepted a promotion to defensive coordinator at Louisville but with the call to home things took a turn and an opportunity he couldn't pass on emerged. With that in mind let's take a little deeper look at the story behind the hire. Where did Coach Miller come from? What does he bring to the table? and what impact might he have on the future of the Kansas Jayhawk defense?
with a couple days down before Iowa State I thought this would be a good time for a a little meet the football coach...full story after the jump...
To start with let's look at some background on Miller and some of what's been reported about Miller's past and how he came to be at Kansas. The need for a linebacker coach emerged early this offseason with the departure of Steve Tovar who has spent a couple of years on staff. Tovar left to "pursue other opportunities." In case you were wondering that is absolutely code for he was handed his walking papers. Tovar was considered a solid individual and a decent motivator but not neccesarily the best at developing talent, coaching players up and his lack of success on the recruiting trail likely also played a factor. With that in mind the mission very early on was to find someone with a track record of successful track record in developing talent and someone well connected in the recruiting world. It has also become clear that either with this position or the defensive line postion the program was looking to add someone to assist in coordinating the defense.
Enter into the equation Bill Miller. Coach Miller had recently been named the defensive coordinator at Louisville in what would be his 7th stint at such a position. However shortly after the opportunity at Kansas opened up to be both the linebacker coach along with the co-defensive coordinator post. A Hutchison Kansas native, Miller found this opportunity to good to pass up. Miller graduated from Hutchinson High in 1974, played two seasons at Hutchinson Junior College and then went on to play and graduate from Texas-Arlington in 1978 after which he immediately entered the coaching profession. Miller is quoted as saying that returning to Kansas is an opportunity to get back closer to his dad and brother both still in Hutchinson.
Now that we know Bill Miller the man and how and why he got here, let's take a look at Bill Miller the coach. A quick rundown of his experience reveals a significant amount of time in the business and a pretty impressive list of individuals with whom he has worked with. Coach Miller's experience includes:
|2007||Defensive Coordinator||Western Michigan|
|2005-2006||Defensive Coordinator & Linebacker Coach||Arizona State|
|2004||Associate Head Coach & Linebacker Coach||Florida|
|1999-2002||Defensive Coordinator||Michigan State|
|1989-1994||Defensive Coordinator||Oklahoma State|
Looking at the list of schools and dates it's hard not to get excited about the knowledge Miller brings to the table. A closer look reveals a who's who of coaching as a list of mentors and colleagues within this time.
While at Oklahoma State, Miller worked with Super Bowl Coach Jimmy Johnson.
Moving up the list his time at Miami spent with program resurrector Butch Davis.
Next Stop Defensive Coordinator for National Championship coach Nick Saban.
In his time at Florida Miller worked under master recruiter Ron Zook.
These are the top names and no doubt an impressive list and a group of coaches that anyone would be thrilled to have as references on a coaching resume. Obviously the next logical question was how did he perform? Who did he coach? What are we getting in production?
A great place to start is with the players. Who did Bill Miller coach and contribute to their development. The best indicator of future success is always past success, isn't that the theory? Fair enough, here are the credentials:
Bill Miller's 1986 Minnesota Defense would hold then #1 Michigan to 17 points and defeat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. During his time at Minnesota the staff would lead the Gophers to only their 2nd back to back bowl appearances in school history.
His time at Oklahoma State was less of a success following the mass departure from Stillwater after the 1989 Holiday Bowl Season.
The same cannot be said for his time in Miami. The Hurricanes coming of probation made a surge back to the top of the Big East in 1995 and 1996. The Miller led defense in 1996 held five opponents to under 7 points and the 1997 group led the conference in pass defense. In 1998 they had an equally impressive defense ranking 2nd against the run. The 1995 team included Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. The 1996 defense sent 6 players into the NFL draft including defensive end Kenard Lang.
Under Nick Saban in 1999 Miller and Michigan State would hit 10 wins on the year with wins over Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. The Spartans would finish 7th in the AP Poll following a Citrus bowl win. In his short time at MSU Miller would place 6 players on the first team all Big 10 defense and 10 players on the 2nd team. The 99' team would see 4 players drafted including future 49er pro bowler Julian Peterson.
In his final year at Arizona State Miller's defense finished 2nd in the Pac 10 trailing only USC.
A Brief look back shows a fair amount of success, a solid career built around some very strong names in the business. The last piece of the puzzle with regards to Miller is his recruiting abilities. Talk of connections in Kansas junior colleges, Texas, Florida and other areas of SEC country are great positives for the Kansas program. Many in and around the program are looking forward to what he may bring to the table and looking at the immediate future it appears as if he will be leading the recruitment of 5 star Wichita quarterback Blake Bell.
Overall the hire of Bill Miller is a great one. I spoke with a linebacker on the team next year and he really feels that the addition of Miller is going to be a great one going as far as saying "I promise this is going to be for the better." The feeling is Miller will be able to assist Clint Bowen with the weekly scheme. Bowen will likely remain field level while Miller can provide an experienced eye in the sky. Miller will also bring a new energy and what we all hope is greater development of our linebacking corps. Lastly he brings a recruiting upgrade. Miller has a lot of connections from his 31 years and the feeling is he is the guy that with the improved Kansas program can go out and begin to land the 4-star or even 5-star type talent we need to take things to the next level.
At 53 and being in the assistant coaching business it's hard to say exactly how long Miller will be around. I'll say this though, however long it is I think the program will be better for it and my hope is we keep this one around a little while and both we and he can enjoy the fruits of his labor.
A look into the newest addition Kerry Locklin somtime next week....