Last year, Drew Miller was the emergency back-up for center Steve Rissler. He also played some center during his sophomore year of high school, but that’s the extent of his experience at the position.
After playing right guard for most of his Gator career, Miller finds himself in a similar situation that former teammate Steve Rissler was in last spring. After being approached shortly after the BCS title game, Miller appears to be the starting center for the Gators.
“They came to me when we first started working out again in early February,” Miller said. “They mentioned it to me and asked me what I thought about it. They said nothing is final, and they just want to see how I feel. I just responded by saying I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team.”
Miller’s team-first attitude is part of the reason why he was the chosen one to replace the departed Rissler. Miller was an All-American in high school and has been a big contributor to the offensive line since becoming a Gator. Now that he’s been around for a couple of years, the coaching staff felt it was time for him to take more of a leadership role.
“(Rissler) said the main thing is just taking the leadership role and taking this unit and carrying them through the season,” Miller said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to get your technique and snaps down, so don’t worry about that. It’s more about being a leader and making sure the line stays together.”
But for now, it’s all about the snaps and technique. Miller has had some rough moments in practice, but offensive line coach John Hevesy has been a patient and positive influence.
“The biggest adjustment has been technique, snapping the ball and getting my head out and my nose right on the ball,” Miller said. “I’m not really used to it, but besides that, it’s just another position I have to get used to.”
And Miller’s lucky that he’s surrounded by teammates who are supportive and willing to offer time to help him during the transition. No one has been more helpful than the guy who is usually on the receiving end of his snaps, Tim Tebow.
“I snap every day with Tebow,” Miller said, “Tomorrow, we won’t have practice, but I’ll be snapping with him. He’s definitely willing. He’ll be up there watching film or something and I’ll tell him to let’s go and he’s ready. Coach Hevesy says I need to do it everyday and I think so too, so I just find a way.”
The blocking aspect at center is obviously different than the guard position, and it’s another area that Miller has to get used to after he’s comfortable snapping the ball.
“At center you don’t have that leeway – that extra yard or so to get a running start,” he said. “You have to get your head up, hit ‘em and drive your feet. There’s no running off the ball. You snap it and there’s a guy on you, so you just have to have great fundamentals and leg drive.”
At first, Miller was tentative about moving to center, but he points to the success that Rissler had making the same move last spring.
“I just tell myself that I have to do what’s best for this line,” Miller said. “The guys around me have most of the work. I just have to snap the ball.”
“Each day I’m getting better technique-wise. I’ve had a few bad snaps each day, but they’re coming to me. Overall, I think I’m doing pretty good.”
There is one big difference for Miller this spring compared to Rissler last year.
“(He) had a bunch of inexperienced guys around him,” Miller said. “I have experienced guys and the main thing is keeping us going in the right direction.”