Miller Has Lot To Look Back On

MORGANTOWN – As defensive tackle Julian Miller prepares to play his final game for West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, he’s able to look back and say he did some pretty good things during his days in Morgantown.

His 27.5 career sacks are second on the school’s all-time list behind Canute Curtis (34.5). His 42.5 tackles for loss are five behind Grant Wiley’s career mark.

Both numbers rank him first among active players in the Big East. Yet, he never did make a first-team All-Big East list.

”Maybe later on I might look back and say I never was all-conference, but right now, I’m still living in the moment,” Miller said. ”It’s my senior year. I’m playing in this Orange Bowl, hopefully go out and win (it).”

In its own way, he might actually have a more prestigious award on his mantle than any all-league certificate. Miller redshirted his freshman season, which was also Rich Rodriguez’s last at West Virginia. It was a team that featured Pat White, Steve Slaton, Noel Devine and Owen Schmitt on an explosive offense.

Miller, a few pounds and injuries ago, was the Scout Team Defensive Champion that year, which ended with Mountaineers beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, their last BCS game.

You stop those guys, you can stop anybody. But those thoughts are for later, he said. For now, he’ll just enjoy this last one.

”This last one is one you want to go out on top,” Miller said. ”If you look at everything we’ve been through this season, to see where we are now – the Orange Bowl – is really going to mean a lot. Not only to me, but all the seniors. If you’re seniors, you can’t really script it much better. You come in on a BCS team and have a chance to go out on a BCS team. It’s definitely something that’s going to mean a lot to me.”

Obviously, Miller didn’t play in that first one. But he remembers it quite well.

”It was an amazing experience just to be out there with the guys that did play,” he said. ”To practice with them, be their hitting dummy or whatever you want to call it. Being along that sideline during that game was just amazing. The experience was something I’m never going to forget.

”I’m hoping to be able to create that same excitement playing this year, as well as for guys who may not be playing so they can on down the road be able to understand how important it is to be able to get to a BCS game and the feeling that you can get going to something like this.”

Tavon laughs at critics

Today, WVU receiver Tavon Austin is the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year and a third-team All-American.

Austin collected a single-season school record 2,294 all-purpose yards, which included 142 rushing yards, 1,063 receiving yards, 268 punt return yards and 821 kickoff return yards. He scored touchdowns on returns of 100 yards against Marshall and 80 at USF. He set the WVU single season reception record with 89 for 1,063 yards and scored four touchdowns.

Clearly, the diminutive Austin (5-foot-9, 176 pounds) proved his doubters to be wrong.

”Even when I was in high school, (they would say) ‘Tavon when you go to college, you’re not going to be able to do this, you’re not going to be able to do that, you’re too small,’ ” Austin recalled. ”Now since I’ve accomplished all of these goals and everything’s going my way right now, I’m proud of myself. I know I’m a small person, but at the same time, I’ve got a big heart and soul.”

Austin still found ways to critique his own game, just as head coach Dana Holgorsen has done at times this season. Not enough consistency.

”I think I had a total of eight dropped balls,” Austin said. ”Don’t want any of those. One more hard year. Hopefully you’ll see the whole thing.”

Florida connection

Nineteen different Mountaineers hail from the state of Florida, where the Orange Bowl will be played. They are:

Belle Glade: Travis Bell

Clermont: Dante Campbell

Ft. Myers: Brodrick Jenkins

Jacksonville: Isaiah Bruce, Andrew Buie, K.J. Myers

Miami: Stedman Bailey, Marquis Lucas, Ivan McCartney, Matt Moro, Geno Smith, Lawrence Smith,

Jorge Wright

Miramar: Eain Smith, Josh Taylor

Naples: David Slonski, J.D. Woods

Northport: Jerry Cooper

Plantation: Russell Haughton-James

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: