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March 30, 2014

Miller aiming for return to starting lineup

When the Wolverines opened the 2013 season with a 59-9 win over Central Michigan, Jack Miller was exactly where he wanted to be.

Miller, now a redshirt junior, was the team's starting center, leading the offensive line from the middle - a goal he had strived for since first stepping foot on campus. He was a starting offensive lineman for the Michigan Wolverines.

Unfortunately, the season did not end quite the way Miller would have hoped.

After the Wolverines struggled to consistently move the ball through the nonconference season, Michigan coach Brady Hoke, offensive coordinator Al Borges and offensive line coach Darrell Funk decided to change things up along the line.

Those changes includes moving Graham Glasgow from guard to center and Miller to the bench. Miller never re-cracked the starting lineup, as the Wolverines continued to struggle up front, leading the country in tackles for loss allowed (113 total).

"I was hit or miss in those first four games," Milled reflected. "Being consistent as an offensive lineman, and really as a team, is the name of the game. As I get more experience as I grow older is what I'm focusing on - play in and play out, day in and day out, making sure I'm doing my job at a high level all the time.

"If you talk to every position group, everyone would put the blame on them. We, as offensive linemen, definitely did. We were not as productive as we needed to be. That's been an internal source of motivation, to be better for this next year. You work too hard, you put in too much time and energy to be mediocre. To not try to win a Big Ten Championship. That is a driving force for us, for sure."

A year older and wiser, Miller is determined to get back on the field. The Wolverines are in the midst of a heated position battle all across the offensive line, using different combinations of guys at different positions to weed out the absolute best five linemen on the team.

Miller wants to be one of those guys.

"I'm hungry," he said. "This is too hard, too much work to put into it, to not be motivated to get on the field on Saturdays. Last year is behind me. It was a learning experience. I learned a lot from it. And so I'm just ready to take the things I learned into this season, move forward, and see if I can play either center or guard this year and help us out."

Miller is one of the guys who has been rotating positions the most, practicing at center and both guard spots.

His main competition at guard will be redshirt sophomore Kyle Kalis and sophomore Kyle Bosch, who became the fifth Wolverine in program history to start games on the offensive line as a true freshman last year.

At center, he is competing with Glasgow, who was recently suspended for a violation of team rules and, according to a release by the athletic department, will miss the season-opening game against Appalachian State Aug. 31.

At this point, Miller doesn't know where he is most likely to play the most next season.

"Center is what I played the first three years, and now I'm going into my fourth season, but I repped at guard every now and then," he said. "I repped at it this spring and feel comfortable. It's whatever works out best. If they want me to play center, I'll play center. If they want me to play guard, I'm just trying to get on the field. If they put me at either one, I'd be fine."

For Miller, this season is a big one - for his own improvement, and that of the offensive line, as a whole.

"We know we didn't play as well as we should have," Miller said. "You play 75 snaps a game, and there were some really good things, and some really awful things, and some OK things. Mediocre. I don't know what side of the spectrum of mediocre.

"It doesn't help in the day and age we live in that you can see your name out there in a good or bad way at all times. That's a factor this spring but it's mostly internal motivation. We know we failed as an offensive line, as a team last year, and we're prepared to work as hard as we need to, to get us back to where we need to be."

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