With biggest challenge out of the way, Jack Miller re-evaluates O-line's priorities

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By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 11, 2013

What’s the biggest difference between the Jack Miller of 2012 and the Jack Miller that you’ve seen so far in the first two games of the Michigan football team’s 2013 campaign?

Well, obviously the fact that the redshirt sophomore is now the starting center. But his transition from backup to the man in charge of the snaps — and the success he’s seen there so far — is the result of two things on Miller’s part.

The first was all the preparation Miller put in during the offseason as part of the battle for the starting center position that took place all spring and through most of summer.

“I’d say lifting is probably the biggest thing,” he said. “I don’t care how good you are, you’re an 18 year-old boy coming in to play with 23-year-old men. There’s just a physical difference, and you have to get to that point.”

That sort of preparation wasn’t just limited to the weight room, though. Miller said he diligently studied the playbook all summer, as a way to stay “two steps ahead” of everything by the time fall camp rolled around.

The second change in Miller isn’t as obvious, but it’s visible to Michigan coach Brady Hoke.

“Jack, at least early in his career, I thought sometimes he was not confident in what he could do,” Hoke said. “I’ve seen that grow, and it’s part of maturity. I believe that he works awfully hard. He has really stepped up in his communication, which he has to at that position.”

That couldn’t have been more evident than in last weekend’s game against Notre Dame. By now, enough has been said about the success of the Wolverines’ interior line against Louis Nix III.

For Miller, what’s most important is how he and the rest of the offensive line move forward from there. Holding off Nix was arguably their biggest challenge of the season, so overcoming that obstacle this early in the season provided Miller with a good vantage point of where the line currently stands and where it has to go.

One thing Miller doesn’t have to worry about, though, is chemistry with redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner.

“It’s easy because Devin is a great leader, it’s been easy to get that going,” Miller said. “Everyone up front will feel that way. He’s doing a phenomenal job leading us right now and making that offense go. We’re really clicking with him. That’s the objective of any good team.”

Now that the offensive line has already clicked with Gardner, the next item on the checklist is opening up the ground game for the running backs. In order to do that, Miller says, the interior line still needs to work on its chemistry. That connection is something that’s made significant progress over the past few weeks, but still isn’t anywhere near where Miller would like it to be.

“Jelling more up front, (knowing) where each other is at, and what we’re thinking,” he said. “Just getting to the point, a good O-line is nothing but consistent play. You’ve just got to be consistent, focus every play and execute every single play. Once we get that going, I think it will really open up the run game.”