John Denton's Knights Insider: Bruce Miller Leads By Example

Sept. 1, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - There are dozens of instances throughout the years where UCF coach George O'Leary can point to Bruce Miller as a model of hustle, grit and toughness for teammates to pattern themselves after, but the senior defensive end's latest feat is easily the coach's favorite ever.

And Miller's remarkable display of fight, hustle and production all rolled into one play during a recent practice shows that the preseason All-American is heading into this season as hungry as ever.

``He rushed the quarterback, made him throw it quick and then he was down the field about 40 yards blocking for the (interception) return. I stopped the film clip in the room to show the team,'' O'Leary said. ``I also pointed out two other guys who slowed down. I told them, `That's why he's where he's at and that's where you have to get.' Those are the types of things with second effort that Bruce does and I wanted the team to see it.''

UCF fans have seen plenty of similar efforts from Miller the past three seasons and hope there are many more to come starting Saturday night when the Knights kick off against South Dakota at Bright House Networks Stadium. Miller is the unquestioned leader of the football team and much of the potential for a special season rides on his ability to deliver an All-American caliber season.

``We've definitely talked about it in the locker room how this can be a great year, but we know that if we look ahead that it can come back and bite us,'' Miller said. ``We have to focus on each game and each weekend and play our tails off.''

These days all eyes on Miller, a 6-foot-2, 248-pound senior. But the fact that he's gone from ``not really under the radar, but no radar at all,'' to now being the target of every All-American team and prestigious watch list is admittedly shocking to even Miller himself.

Once overlooked by just about every college scout except those from UCF, Miller has transformed himself from a promising project into one of the sport's premier defensive wrecking balls.

The Canton, Ga. native opens his senior season as college football's active leader in sacks (27) and tackles for loss (44). He was named to numerous All-American teams, he's Conference USA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year and he's on the watch lists for the Lombardi and Nagurski Awards.

Often self-deprecating when it comes to his own talent, Miller said much of the credit for his rise from an overlooked high school player to that of a college standout belongs to others. But clearly his drive to be great and determination to push, push and push again is much of the reason behind his success.

``I'm proud of the things that I've been able to accomplish. But I've been surrounded by great people. Players, coaches, strength coaches - those are the people are the reason that I've been able to develop like I have,'' he said. ``I've certainly put in a lot of hard work, but without those people I don't know if it would be possible.''

With standout tackle Torell Troup off to the NFL and a lot of inexperience along the defensive line with freshmen starters Victor Gray and E.J. Dunston, Miller knows that he will be the focal point of the blocking schemes this season. He'll likely be double-teamed plenty, chipped by running backs and covered by tight ends to keep him from getting a clear rush off the end.

Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable plans to keep Miller on the move, playing him inside occasionally to take advantage of his quickness. But his message to Miller otherwise has been relatively simple.

``I've just told him to keep playing the same way that he always has and he'll be just fine,'' Huxtable said. ``He knows how to play the game and we'll find ways to get him to the quarterback. I'm not worried one bit about Bruce Miller.''

For his part, Miller is vowing now that just because he enters this season with a bulls-eye figuratively affixed between the 4 and 9 on his UCF jersey that his approach and drive won't change one bit.

``My mentality of wanting to go hard on every play hasn't changed one bit,'' Miller stressed. ``I just want to keep my motor running and do everything to make sure that I am prepared for the season.''


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John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.