By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 8, 2014) – Dorian Miller understands the reason for concern – even if it is only temporary – on paper. The promising redshirt freshman offensive lineman has yet to take a snap in a college game.
Now, suddenly and unexpectedly in week two of preseason camp, he’s Rutgers’ starting left guard, stepping in for injured senior Kaleb Johnson, who left Thursday’s practice with a lower body injury.
That’s the same Kaleb Johnson who has made 37 consecutive starts.
“I don’t think of it that way,” said Miller, a 6-3, 285-pounder from Metuchen, N.J. “You can only go in and play the best you can play. You can’t replace experience, especially if you don’t have any.
“Obviously, Kaleb has done what he’s done. He’s been a great player. He’s been a great mentor for me. Right now, I’ve just got to go in and play the best I can. That’s all I can do.”
With Johnson expected back Monday, according to head coach Kyle Flood, that’s all the Scarlet Knights need from Miller right now. He’s a temporary stopgap being given the opportunity to showcase himself on a veteran offensive line that will be looking for an infusion of fresh talent next season. Miller will be among the newcomers Rutgers will be counting on in 2015.
“Dorian is getting better,” said Flood. “The only way to get better is to play and right now he’s getting reps with the first team and he’s playing against some pretty good players. Every day is a learning experience for him but we’re certainly seeing the improvement.”
Disrupting an offensive line that has returned all five starters from a year ago is almost never a good thing. But starting right guard Chris Muller says Miller’s personality and talent make him the ideal replacement for an established player like Johnson – however long it lasts.
“Dorian is a very level-minded guy,” said Muller. “He knows the job he has to do. He has prepared for this. As soon as he gets settled in he’s going to be a great player. The longer he’s in there the more he will be able to develop.”
Miller understands what will happen when Johnson returns. The left guard pecking order will return to what it was. But he also realizes he has a chance to make a statement in the next few days about his readiness if something happens during the season.
“Just the fact I’m getting more reps and going out with the 1s it’s exciting,” Miller said. “It makes things more interesting and it will be a learning experience for sure. There are things you don’t understand until you’re actually on the field. That’s what I’m learning now.
“Even if it is for just a short while this is going to benefit me in the long run. It’s going to be a tremendous learning experience. You never want to see anyone get hurt, but it’s the best thing that could happen for a young lineman as far as me being able to progress as a player.”