MORGANTOWN - Julian Miller laughs off the suggestion from teammate Bruce Irvin that he is one of the "fat boys" on the West Virginia University football team.
After all, Miller said, any defensive lineman looks fat when compared to the undersized and sleeker Irvin. Plus, it means that Miller did just one more thing to help his team.
"He calls us all fat boys," Miller said. "I guess I have to accept that. I'm a fat boy."
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
West Virginia University defensive lineman Julian Miller looks to get past a blocker Wednesday at practice.
That's probably a phrase Miller never thought he would hear five years after arriving on the campus as a skinny, 215-pound defensive lineman. But nutrition and work in the weight room has helped him get up to about 270 pounds.
"I was going to gain the weight regardless, especially if I want to play at the next level," he said. "I really don't feel a change at all. I feel like this is where my body is supposed to be."
Miller leads a defense that was nationally acclaimed last year, but must replace seven starters from that unit. Irvin is working to become an every-down player instead of just a pass-rush specialist, a role he held last year as he racked up more than a dozen sacks.
"Bruce is going to get the attention early, which could open up some opportunities for me," Miller said.
Which would be just fine with Irvin, who said getting the win is more important than who gets the quarterback.
"At the end of the day, it ain't about Bruce," Irvin said. "It's about all 11 guys. If I can take the attention away from Julian, I'm happy. They say they are going to double-team me. If they do that, Julian gets the sacks. It's about winning."
Still, Irvin is confident his quickness will be no match for the much larger opposing linemen.
"I don't think any offensive lineman has a first step that's quicker than mine," he said. "I got faster over the summer. My first step got way faster. I'm coming, and I ain't slowing down. I've got a motor, and I love to run."
As if more fuel needed to be added to the fire, Irvin recently saw on Twitter that some consider him the most overrated player in the Big East Conference.
"When I see that negative stuff about me or about the team, I get working harder," he said. "It's up to us to change everybody's opinion."
While the offensive coaching staff has seen a complete overhaul since last season, the defensive staff has remained intact. Miller said that allows the returning players to concentrate more on technique and to help the new kids in camp.
"We've got a lot of young guys on the team, and everybody has to play a role," Miller said.
One of those young guys will be whatever player wins the nose guard role. Josh Taylor and Jorge Wright are in a battle with freshman Trevor Demko for the position.
"The nose guard has to get double-teamed," Irvin said. "We're going to have a good rotation at nose guard. If the nose guard holds the middle down, we'll be all right."