Saturday, July 5, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #51 Jack Miller

Jack Miller
Name: Jack Miller
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 297 lbs.
High school: Toledo (OH) St. John's
Position: Center
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #60
Last year: I ranked Miller #17 and said he would be the starting center. He started the first four games.

Miller went into the 2013 season as the presumed starting center and was essentially the only player recruited for that position other than Patrick Kugler, who was a true freshman at the time. Miller started the first four games of the year, but things did not go well. The whole offensive line missed blocks and assignments, but the game was clearly moving too quickly for Miller. After the first third of the season, he was replaced by walk-on guard Graham Glasgow, who had been starting at left guard up until that point. Despite numerous botched snaps between Glasgow and quarterback Devin Gardner, the coaching staff never turned the reins back over to Miller.

This season the coaches will have no other choice but to hand the center job to someone other than Glasgow, if only for one game - Glasgow has been suspended for the opener against Appalachian State. Miller was ahead of Kugler in the spring game, and Miller is the only other center to have played in an actual game. So my guess is that Miller will be the starting center for at least one game this season. He may draw into the lineup long-term as well if Glasgow finds himself starting at right tackle, which is a possibility with the uncertainty surrounding the inexperienced Ben Braden. I do not expect Miller to establish a stranglehold on the position, and he may be passed up by Kugler at some point, but I do believe we'll see Miller on the field for stretches of time this year.

Prediction: Part-time starting center


  1. Agree with this ranking. You had him at 42 and then 17 the last two years but it turns out he never earned that optimistic assessment. It did seem like the coaches had the same hopeful outlook, making him the starter heading into 2013. You wonder what they were thinking/smoking.

    While Miller is, by seniority, currently ahead of Kugler, I think Kugler is more important to the team, because of his talent and potential. We pretty much know Miller is a backup caliber player, at best, but Kugler could be a lot more. I'd also slot Burzynski a bit ahead of him only because he's proven to be a better player overall and has a little more versatility.

    I do think Miller should start and do OK against App State. His size shouldn't be a problem there. If he plays well, maybe he gets some confidences and earns himself a bigger role - but I wouldn't bet on it. As our young talent matures the road to playing time will only get harder for the Millers, Burzyinskis of the world - not to mention the true freshman.

    1. I agree about Kugler being more important. I thought he looked better than Miller in the spring game, and he's got more upside.

      I'd agree on Burzynski as well if he were fully healthy. With him coming back from an in-season ACL tear, I'm not sure when he will back 100%.

    2. UM has a long, deep tradition of good OL stepping up to the plate and delivering as RS freshmen. Kugler needs to add his name to the list.

      Not having a legit C has completely hamstrung UM the last two seasons. Forcing guys like Glasgow and Mealer to play C is ridiculous. Hopefully, Kugler can be that multi-year anchor who breaks the trend.

    3. @Anon -Good point re: questioning Burzynski's health.

      @PS - That's our hope, and probably the staff's. Disappointing that none of Hoke's guys stepped up to be quality starters as RS freshman yet. Can't expect it from everyone but it is common for NFL-caliber guys to do it.

  2. I'll be a bit disappointed if Kugler is not challenging for PT at center by the end of the season. Yes, he's a RS frosh, but he came in as the top center prospect in the country and his father is a pro OL coach. If anyone this young is ready to step in over a guy like Miller, it's him. It would speak very poorly for our player development at Oline if Kugler stays behind a journeyman like Miller until his 4th year in the program.

    1. Wouldn't surprise me considering how poorly some of our players have been developed.

    2. I'm not trying to pick a fight, but would you please cite examples of players who have been poorly developed? This has been a recurring theme, but I have hard time coming up with a whole lot of examples. Hoke's first real class is now redshirt sophomores or juniors who were pressed into service early. This year and next should show where they are. And I thought Hoke and staff did just fine with RichRod's recruits (didn't seem to hurt Lewan, Schofield, Gallon or Denard). I'm not sure what players have a ton of potential but have been left undeveloped.


    3. I don't think we should necessarily EXPECT Kugler to leapfrog Miller, but we certainly can hope he does.

      @Phil - I think Frank Clark would dispute your assertion in regard to his realness. Examples of a lack of development are plentiful. Let's go by position:

      QB: Denard's efficiency went downhill, as did the entire offenses. Last year, things absolutely bottomed out against Nebraska. Bellomy looked unqualified, Morris looked unprepared, and Gardner, for all his experience and talent, has been shuffled around and has played inconsistently - brilliant at times, bombarded at others, too risk-averse at times, too careless at others.

      RB: Toussaint/Smith were Rich Rod guys that were solid but not world-beaters. No one Hoke has produced has been better, so we're left crossing our fingers that Smith/Green will live up to their hype.

      WR: Darboh/Chesson are entering their third year and have done nothing. Does starting Funchess off at TE count as development? Gallon did improve under Hoke, but that seemed to come naturally with age and you can argue he was underutilized prior to 2013 - boxed in as a 'slot' WR when obviously he was much more than that.

      TE: The most woeful example. Williams' lack of development stands out. Funchess never could block and didn't improve and got shifted to WR. Butt looked good as a freshman - will he improve? If so, he'd be the first TE under Hoke to do so.

      OL: I could rant for a long time on this, but the entire OL was a debacle. Hoke hasn't developed a single scholarship player into a viable starter. They are young, yes, but it's been done before. The Rodriguez holdovers too have not progressed. Omameh regressed I'd say. The best case for development is Glasgow (a walk-on playing out of his natural position) and, I guess, Schofield - though he was pretty much ready to go and didn't look better in '13 than he did in '12.

      The story is much better on defense but we could pick through to find examples here too - guys like Robinson and Furman had talent, Washington was underutilized. But when you look at LB and the DB and guys like RVB and Campbell - they clearly got better over time.

    4. @ Lanknows

      This is a weak argument about lack of development. I don't want to go point-by-point because this would develop into a 2,000 word essay, but Darboh didn't do anything last year because he had A BROKEN FOOT. Chesson was the #3 option behind a record-setting wide receiver and a potential star in Devin Funchess. To say they haven't done anything is either false (Chesson had some limited success and improved throughout the year) or intentionally misleading (Darboh was reportedly a favorite of Gardner's until he got hurt). Starting Funchess off at TE and progressing him to WR seems like development to me; would you prefer that they let him flail around as a TE for four years rather than using him out wide, where he's clearly more effective?

      What do you mean that Hoke hasn't developed a single scholarship player into a viable starter? Michael Schofield was not a starter when Hoke arrived, and yet he turned into a 3rd round pick during Hoke's tenure. And saying "scholarship" conveniently allows you to exclude Graham Glasgow, a walk-on who has developed into perhaps the best offensive lineman on the team. Who, exactly, is responsible for Glasgow's development? Did he do that all on his own?

      Also, your exclusion of Gallon is quite odd, too. Did he or did he not improve steadily during Brady Hoke's tenure? Saying that came "naturally with age" is a huge cop-out. You could say that about anybody who develops if you want to take credit away from the coaching he receives. The only way I could understand it (and it would still be a stretch) is if he hit a growth spurt or filled out, such as going from 5'8", 165 lbs. to 6'0", 195 lbs., but no such thing happened with Gallon.

      You're clearly reaching to avoid giving Hoke credit. If you don't like Hoke, that's okay. There is certainly lots of viable evidence (overall record, poor OL performance, etc.). But twisting the truth to fit your argument is below you.

    5. It seems like a case of the exception proving the rule when the only WR recruit to experience significant development arrived two years before Hoke did.

      The bottom line is that we're going into 2014 with only Funchess as a proven commodity at WR. He's an impact player. But is the move from TE to WR a sign of player development or a failure of it? Was it because he couldn't block or was it because there aren't other good options at WR? Neither is a good sign. It's certainly not because we have too many quality TEs. I'm on the glass half-empty side here. They probably should have started him off at WR from the outset.

      As for the other guys:

      2010 - Rich Rod recruited 5 guys. Some were obviously duds, but Robinson, Miller, and Dileo all came with some accolades. Only Dileo turned into a contributor, and he seemed underutilized throughout his career. Back in 2012 people were calling for him and Gallon to get most of the snaps, but Reynolds, Jackson, Roundtree and, most frustratingly Gardner took a lot of snaps.

      2011 - They decided not to pursue WR recruits, which was curious even then, but they did for a time flip Hayes to WR (before moving him back.)

      2012 - Darboh's injury opened up the opportunity for Chesson, right? For two highly ranked recruits to have so little production through 2 years (injury or not) is disappointing when you consider the other guys who got snaps during the last two seasons included walk-ons and Jeremy Jackson. Make it three when you add Norfleet, who they can't seem to find a position for despite his very-evident talent.

      One can hypothesize that Darboh would have done something if healthy, but he didn't, neither did Chesson, and neither did Jerald Robinson when he came in for basically the exact same hype that Darboh got a couple years earlier. Certainly Darboh is not an example of Hoke's player development. Maybe it was the injury, maybe not, we don't know.

      2013 - Not one of the many incoming freshman made an impact at a position where historically freshman can.

      A whole bunch of "incomplete" is a sign that things aren't going great.

      You have a point with Gallon. He clearly did develop in terms of production. But he was always a talent (highest rated WR recruit under Rodriguez) and was already 2nd on the team in receptions (3 off Hemingway) in 2011. I expect he improved to some degree, but he didn't get 3 times better, like his stats would have you think. I think the coach's underutilized him until they were left with basically no alternative in 2013.

      OL: we've argued about this before, but Schofield was pretty much ready to go in 2011, fighting for a starting job from the day Hoke arrived. It's not like he had real competition after that, and it's unclear if he improved significantly through his 3 seasons with Hoke.

      The failure to develop a real starting center is a mark against them, and they clearly overrated how good Miller could be. The fact that they have not one player who has started a full season heading into this season is a failure, no matter how much you want to blame Rodriguez for it, it is a failure.

    6. --------------------------

      I like Hoke. I think the offensive development or lack of it is mostly on Borges and the other offensive staff. But somebody asked for evidence of a lack of player development and the entire offense is covered with them. Borges getting fired speaks to it as well.

      After 3 years the positive examples of offensive player development under Hoke are scant:

      Funchess is the only above-average Big Ten starter that Hoke has recruited heading into his 4th season at Michigan. Add Glasgow if you like, since that was a competitive situation. Butt projects to be there too, but it's hard to ignore the fact that the other TEs haven't improven. Anybody else is just guesswork and optimism. We should have seen a lot more by now.


      There's no question things will look better by the end of the year. We have a lot of young talent and some of them will step up. I imagine we'll have at least a couple of solid-looking OLmen. I imagine some of the many WRs recruited in the last 3 classes will step up and look good. I hope Butt is healthy enough to play up to his all-conference potential. I hope Williams finally develops into a quality blocking TE he seemed destined to be. I hope Gardner improves to have a season full of his Indiana/Minnesota/Ohio State - destroying good days. But none of these things have happened yet. Instead, we've seen walk-ons like Reynolds, Kwiatkowsi and Glasgow win roles by default. We've seen Purdue-caliber talents like Roundtree, Jackson and Bellomy get roles they probably didn't deserve. We've seen freshman get thrust into roles and produce embarrassing performances (Green, Morris, Williams) and we've seen talented players shuffle around positions (Gardner, Norfleet, Hayes, Magnuson).

      Anyone arguing they haven't seen signs of poor player development on offense under Hoke is looking at the world through maize-colored glasses.

    7. On top of what Thunder said, you cannot disregard Gallon's development by attributing it to age and then ignore the fact that Green/Smith were freshman last season and Chesson was a RS freshman. Double standard on age there. Chesson and Butt both appeared to have developed and progressed as players during the course of the season, which one would expect from such young players. Regarding TE, you also are ignoring Mike Kwiatkowski who went from a non-factor to being a solid TE starter under Hoke. Obviously he was not a burner, but he could block well and was okay in the passing game.

      As for the defense, good player development doesn't mean you will turn every player into a starter. Robinson and Furman had a lot of wholes to their game that they could never get fully over, despite their athleticism.

      In all, I think it is too soon to judge Hoke on player development. I think this season will be far more revealing.

    8. Not one freshman made an impact at a position where freshmen historically can.

      This is why I can't take anything you write seriously.

  3. Miller is 6'4" and 297, so he's not really "too small" anymore (surprising, since *all* of RichRod's recruits were TOO SMALL). What is it that Miller does poorly? I'm asking (apologies) out of near-complete ignorance. Too slow? Too weak? Not smart enough?

    Whatever the case, it's really too bad that the only remaining '10/'11 O-line guy can't cut it.

    1. Listed sizes can be bogus and/or misleading. From the eye-test, Miller looks like a pudgy, walk-on LB when standing next to his line-mates - he really stands out as not belonging. Miller lacks power and quickness from what I have seen - a center has to have at least one or the other. Hoke alluded to him not being strong enough when he moved Glasgow over. Although ND had a pretty good DT's last year, Miller (and to a slightly lesser extent Kalis) really got abused that game. ND was playing like they were not even there.


  4. I have a fear that the O Line could actually be worse this year after losing our two best players on that line.
    Please tell me I'm wrong.

    1. I highly doubt the line can be worse this year - although I think I said that last year. By the standard metric, returning starts, we should be worse this year but I think that is misleading because all of our returning starts last year were from 2 players. This year we have numbers and talent with a sprinkling of experience. I doubt we will see any walk-ons in the 2-deep after this year. A note on last year - in addition to the complex and varied schemes that folks blame on Borges - I always wondered why we didn't at least try Schofield at LG next to Lewan. With Glasgow at C we would have at least would have been solid on one side of the line and being "1-handed" seems like it would have been better than what we ended up with. (And no I don't think the gimmicky tackle-over gave a proper indication of what could have been with this line config.)

    2. Last year we broke in 3 new starters. This year we will be breaking in at least 1, probably 2 or 3. Nobody has started a full season at their position. The only legit returning starter we have is Glasgow, a walk-on. Kalis started some games, but also lost his job. Magnuson and Bosch got a few starts, but Magnuson is also switching positions. RT is a total wildcard.

      Even if you take the optimistic view that Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis-Magnuson are all experienced starters, there's a pretty decent chance that one of them is passed over or gets hurt. Cole and Kugler might start despite not having played a down of college football yet.

      It ain't pretty.

      Regarding last year - I think most fans would agree with you. Borges' approach was baffling.

  5. Talent wise they may not be as good, though it never thought that Schofield was all that great a college performer, despite going in the draft, and I felt like Lewan was not the greatest cog in the machine, either. We could certainly have our worst offensive line in 50 years without their help. But with a simpler blocking scheme and more cohesion, production could still be better. Not great, but better. Let's face it, there ain't much further down we can go from last year.

    1. That's the worst argument. People said that before last year! It can be worse.

      every game can be MSU/Nebraska. Not saying it will be, but it can.

      Talent and experience are less this year. Our hope lies entirely in coaching (i.e., Nuss)

  6. Our YPC rushing was 4.8 in 2012. No one was saying it couldn't get much worse, because it HAD been worse, in 2009, 2008 and 2007. In 2013 it was 3.3. Name the last year it was much worse than that.