Miller goes both ways on the line for CHS
It seemed like only yesterday when then-sophomore Sheldon Miller was called up to varsity squad during the 2014 playoffs.
Miller immediately took over a starting spot at defensive tackle, and has been a starter ever since. Winning a lot of football games makes a long football season seem shorter.
“Honestly, yeah time has flown by,” Miller said as he prepared for Friday’s game at North Valleys against the winless Panthers. “I think about playing alongside Brady (Rivera) like it was yesterday.”
Miller has been one of the constants, helping Carson to a 19-5 record the last two seasons, both of which ended in the regional finals. He would like nothing more than to help Carson to a deep playoff run in his final high school season.
With the 2016 season has come a new challenge, however.
Miller, a senior, has been tapped to play both ways this year, and that’s not an easy task. You have heavy contact on each and every snap in the interior line. He started the season at offensive tackle, but has since been moved to guard to take advantage of his strength and athleticism. Rest comes on the defensive side of the ball because Carson’s offense needs him on the field every snap.
More than once last year former offensive line coach Jim Franz lamented the fact he didn’t have the 6-foot-2 255-pound Miller on his side of the ball. Franz believed Miller could have been his best offensive lineman a year ago, and that’s saying a lot when you consider the Senators had Eddie Duarte, Kevin Rusler, Corey Jasper, Austin Ackerman and Bryceton Schilling up front.
With Jasper, Duarte, Ackerman and Rusler graduating, Miller knew he would be moved to offense.
He spent the entire spring working on the offensive side of the ball.
“I’ve always played offense,” Miller said. “I just loved defense more when I moved up to the varsity level. When you’re on offense, you have to take more punishment, and I like dishing it out more.”
That’s only partially true. Miller has been a beast the last two years on defense. Any punishment he takes on offense comes in pass protection, but the Senators have never been a team to throw 20 to 25 times a game; usually half that. On run plays the offense gets to dole out the punishment.
“He has a great motor,” said new offensive line coach Vic Castro. “We had him at tackle to start the season, and we moved him to guard when we felt Blaise (Bonomo) was ready to start at tackle. I love Sheldon. This is my third year working with him, and I think we work well together. I know his temperment.”
“He’s really picked it up,” head coach Blair Roman said.
Roman and Castro both said there are some technique things Miller needs to work on, but the glitches are easily fixable with a little more attention to detail.
Miller’s move to guard came right before the Reed game, and Carson’s offense has put 86 points on the board in two weeks and racked up 930 yards of total offense, including 786 on the ground. Coincidence? No.
“I prefer guard (to tackle),” Miller said. “You get to do a lot of pulling and I like that. Playing tackle you were in one area of the field.”
What Miller wasn’t saying is he can get to the second or even third level as a guard and use his size and strength against a linebacker/defensive end or defensive back coming up on run support. No doubt Miller’s eyes light up like a marquee on the Las Vegas Strip when he pulls out and sees somebody in his path, especially if they’re smaller.
Miller originally thought he would be rested on offense, but that hasn’t been the case. Playing offensive line in Carson’s scheme isn’t easy, and the Senators need his experience more on the offensive side of the ball.
The biggest concern when Miller was asked to go both ways was how he could handle it physically.
“That (conditioning) was the biggest issue,” Roman admitted. “He was named captain because of how hard he worked this summer to get prepared for the season. His hard work has shown. He works hard, but he still has to play every snap. It’s important as coaches that we make sure defensively we can find a time to give him a series or some plays off.”
“I think it’s worked out pretty well,” Miller said. “I think I’ve held up pretty well.
“In the off-season, me and Justin Tschetter did a lot of work in the weightroom. We hit it really hard.”
And, the hard work is paying dividends.