July 6, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For every play junior safety Tanner Miller made as a starter with the University of Iowa football team, he remembers the ones he didn’t make, and he doesn’t want them to happen again.
“There are always things to improve on, but it was a good building block for me to get in there and get my feet wet,” said Miller, a 6-foot-2, 201-pound Kalona, Iowa, native. “I went back and looked at some of those games when I struggled. I am trying to get better at those things, and eliminating those mental mistakes.”
Miller saw action in Iowa’s first two games before taking over as the starting free safety in the third game of the regular season, a 31-27 victory over Pittsburgh. He proceeded to start the final 11 contests, accumulating 76 tackles (52 solo), three tackles for loss, three pass breakups and forced a fumble. He also tied for the team lead with three interceptions, including a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown in the 41-31 victory over Northwestern.
In an effort to mend and learn from mistakes, Miller made it a point to spend more time in the film room.
“It has gotten to be more of a habit and a daily routine,” said Miller. “To have that block of time where I can get in here to watch mistakes from last year’s games and spring ball. I am always trying to build on things where I can get better.”
With first-year defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s mentality of implementing a more aggressive Hawkeye defense, Miller knows he’ll find himself hugging the line of scrimmage more often.
“There are always things to improve on, but it was a good building block for me to get in there and get my feet wet. I went back and looked at some of those games when I struggled. I am trying to get better at those things, and eliminating those mental mistakes.”
UI free safety
“That’s what the safety position is all about,” he said. “You have to be able to do both things; you have to be able to cover and help on the run. You have to show you’re not just back there free-roaming, and you have to be able to come down and tackle as well.”
With two-year starter Micah Hyde manning one cornerback position, junior B.J. Lowery replacing NFL draftee Shaun Prater on the opposite side and one player from the trio of sophomore Nico Law and seniors Tom Donatell and Collin Sleeper, Miller believes the Hawkeyes have the personnel to run and execute in man coverage.
“That will be good for us to get some work at playing a little man-to-man coverage, because across the board with our four guys, we have the guys that are capable to play those types of defenses,” he said. “It will be good for us in the long run.”
While the defense will be busy breaking in six new starters, Miller says that the influx of youth isn’t a bad thing for the Hawkeyes.
“Guys that haven’t been in there tend to think a little less, and that can help them out in some situations,” he said. “They’re just guys out there playing and having fun instead of having pressure set on them.
“This team will be different because of its youth. That will be good and bad at times, and you’re always going to have a team that goes through some rough spots. This team has a lot of room to grow, and I think you’ll see this team mature over the course of the year.”
Miller says the changes to the UI coaching staff have energized players.
“It’s not really anything to do with football,” he said. “It’s an attitude as far as on the practice field. There is a little more energy out there, which I think we needed and will be good for us this fall. The coaches are on us in a good way, and that has helped us over the course of the spring and summer.”
The Hawkeyes open the season Saturday, Sept. 1, against Northern Illinois in Chicago’s Soldier Field. The game begins at 2:30 p.m. (CT) and will be televised on ESPNU.