Miller a hit at linebacker this spring

The question was simple and direct, and James Miller responded accordingly.

While recruiting him out of Brandon, Fla. last winter, Indiana defensive coordinator Kane Wommack wanted to know what made the prospect tick. So Wommack asked him: what’s the best part of your game?

“He said, ‘I like to hit people,'” Wommack recalled Tuesday.

That’s a good quality for a linebacker to have, and as IU approaches the midway point of spring practice, the Hoosiers have learned something else about Miller.

The redshirt freshman is eager to use his best attribute to earn a major role inside coach Tom Allen’s defense this fall.

“I’ll tell you what, he’s maybe the most improved linebacker from fall to now,” Allen said.

That’s an encouraging development for Indiana, which needs to replace former Mike linebacker Dameon Willis during the months to come. Miller finds himself squarely in the mix for the starting job, competing alongside sophomores Thomas Allen and Micah McFadden.

But Miller has the highest upside of that bunch, and so far this spring, he’s put a good effort toward proving it.

“He’s such a hungry individual when he gets out on the field,” Wommack said. “You know those old school linebackers. … Doesn’t matter if it’s on the sideline, in the middle of the box, he wants to establish dominance in the way that he strikes you.”

Miller began to surface inside IU’s defense late last fall, debuting on Oct. 26 at Minnesota. He earned a start at No. 4 Michigan on Nov. 17 and racked up three tackles down the stretch.

When Miller signed with Indiana in February 2018, he chose the Hoosiers over offers from Iowa and Florida State, among others. Part of what Allen liked about the 6-foot-2, 225 prospect was his potential to fill his frame with muscle, along with his potential to play either of IU’s two spots in the linebacking corps.

Allen also admired the way Miller moved sideline-to-sideline at the high school level, and as IU’s offseason workouts have progressed, the Florida native has taken a big step toward improving his footwork and his understanding of the concepts of the defense.

“It’s hard for a freshman to come in here, that’s not a mid-year guy, which he was not, to learn the defense in one summer,” Allen said. “I think it was a lot of things thrown at him, his head was spinning a lot in fall camp. But having a whole year to learn, get stronger and move better (has helped him).”

That’s been apparent this spring.

As Allen looks ahead to the fall and continues to evaluate his options at Mike linebacker, the IU coach believes the underclassman has begun to put himself in good position to earn his way onto the field in the months to come.

“He’s a violent guy, now,” Allen said. “That was obvious the first time I watched him play. That was obvious the first time I watched him play in high school. Now to be able to do a better job and be a more well-rounded guy, and the violence is still there, he finishes really, really strong, just like how he’s learning how to get his run fits. He’s able to stand guys up in the hole and knock them back, we saw that against Michigan in the few reps he played. Just a snapshot of how talented he really is.”


  1. Miller was one of the two big steals IU got from FSU (Penix being the other) in the 2018 class. It looks like Miller will see some serious PT this fall and he should be fun to watch. Don’t be surprised if he or fellow RS-FR McFadden lead the team in tackles.

  2. Is anyone else uneasy about Coach Allen describing his player as violent and that violent behavior is a positive? He might want to choose a different word given the mounting concerns over brain injuries and player safety.

    1. From a football perspective it doesn’t concern me. If I was a 19 year old young man who is a dominant physical specimen I would be very concerned if a respected public figure described me as ‘violent’.

      That is the kind of thing that resurfaces in court testimony.

    2. Not 1 bit. I would be ‘uneasy’ if the HC of the CFB team I support described 1 of his coveted, young defensive chargers as tender, soft or played with timidity. Football to Puffball. Again? Something the soft culture that has been IUFB has played like for the majority of seasons over the past 8 decades. IU over the past 5 seasons turned that corner.

  3. Hoosier 86 – Agree that the choice of the word “violent” to describe Miller and other players during Allen’s recent press conference is unfortunate and possibly a symptom of TA’s lack of public relation skills. If any of these players Allen has tagged with the word “violent” gets into any kind of domestic dispute or barroom fight, this label will come back to haunt them and Coach Allen. There are many other words Allen could have used to convey a similar mind set that he seeks in his defensive players, but using the word violent over and over again in his recent presser is not well thought out on Allen’s part.

    On a different note, what the hell is going on with Tuttle’s waiver request? How in the world does the Ohio State backup QB who played in 6 games last fall get his clearance to play immediately at Miami a couple of weeks ago, and Tuttle, who quit Utah 4 games into the season and never played a snap, still sit in limbo? Did Miami’s compliance office do a much better or competent job than IU’s?

  4. Parts of this discussion represent just how far down the PC path our society has gone and how football has been influenced by our softening culture. It also represents the built-in awareness of the potential for litigation tied to speech. Football is a violent sport. It was invented to be a violent sport. It involves more than just violence, but when it stops being violent, football will cease to be a sport, or whatever it evolves to can be re-named “flag football,” touch football, or puffball.

    Clearly the context of T.A.’s comments would have to be taken into consideration in any future situation involving litigation. And clearly the context of his comments referred to football. As for me, I certainly want IU Football’s middle linebacker to be capable of violence when on the football field. That’s one of the key attributes the position requires. I’m excited to see Miller play.

  5. Aggressive, dominant tackler, big hitter, physical- sure. Violent? Here’s what Google says:
    using or involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

    The PC crowd is probably already looking for ways to tie IUFB with “a culture of violence”. I agree with Ranger 67 and others- shows Allen’s poor public relations skills. Plus what about the parents- who the heck wants their kid talked about as violent? Again, bad choice of words.

    1. I have observed that whenever I hear someone start a statement with the phrase, “Now, this may not be politically correct…”, 99.9% of the time they are about to say something stupidly racist or sexist.

  6. I recently heard a college football coach say something to the effect that football is about one group of men imposing their will on another group of men, and the means by which they do that involves controlled violence. Football involves violence, as does rugby, boxing, MMA, judo, wrestling, karate and a few other sports. You must be capable of violence in order to participate in those sports. Football has become the target for the litigious PC culture in America because it is the wealthiest and most popular of the sports that involved violence. Now, if you want to talk about the most deadly legitimate sport in the world, it’s competitive equestrian. More people are killed, paralyzed or suffer serious injury competing in equestrian events than any other legitimate sport on earth. It does not involve “violence,” but it is a far more dangerous sport than all those that do.

    1. Soccer produces more long term cognitive deficits than any other sport. There was a huge study over many years on this. It is attributed to ‘heading’ the ball.

      I’ve incurred some cognitive losses just trying to watch it.

      1. But do we really want the definitive “studies” proving otherwise(more potential brain damage in football than in soccer) in our NFL and college football? How much money does soccer produce for our economy compared to football? …That’s OUR economy…not Europe or South America.

        And even if contact football in this age of human sledgehammers is safer than soccer(giggle-giggle) , we’re probably going to get more serious concussions now in football because every third play is going to be UNDER REVIEW! Why? Because as guys wait they get irritated and meaner…They get out of their rhythm ….Suddenly, play gets even more ragged. There’s no flow to the game. Less crispness and readiness to take a hit/absorb a hit while you stiffened up drinking Gatorade during another REVIEW!
        They’re effing up football about as much as a sport can be effed up.

        And and answer me this: Why in the hell does Sean Payton even have an influential voice for new rules in review anything? This man was running a hit man scheme at New Orleans and providing bounties for taking cheap shots and vicious high hits at qb’s in attempts to injure or knock out of a game. Allowing that guy anywhere near a committee room proves severe brain damage already present in all the brain
        trust. The owners have obviously forgotten what a dirty-ass scheme poor “Mr. Bad Call” Sean was running down there in Saintly Saintsville.

  7. My esteem for Coach Tom Allen has risen about yard for speaking using real words. This thread reminds me of a gal dressing to go out for the evening; wig, false eyelashes, make-up, pushup bra, skin tight britches, costume jewelry, 4 inch heels and her goal is to find a REAL man.
    We don’t need PC FB coaches nor librarians performing on the turf instead of hardnosed FB players.

  8. Getting back to football, it is good to hear Miller is standing out this Spring as last year he looked like the real deal when he was in this past year. He has shown signs of being the physical LB IU needs for the B1G. Watching his HS tapes it was clear he was a hitter and I wondered how it would translate coming to the college level. Miller and a number of other 2018 players are the reason I am excited about future IUFB seasons. There are 2019 players I am excited to see how they look this year.

  9. SPECIAL REPORT: The Most Violent Football Program in History to Never Hit Anyone… Tonight on the Hope Channel in conjunction with ESPN.

  10. We’ve had rapes, assaults, alleged murder and drug sales with a loaded weapon from IU football players in recent years. Not too hard to see a sharp attorney suing the University for an atmosphere that condoned and encouraged violence. Right or wrong, Allen’s statements seem to open the University to culpability when the next act of violence, real violence, occurs. And yes, Miller does seem like a good player.

  11. 123, even the dimmest bulb on the jury understands context:
    ATTY: Coach, so you admit that you said Miller was violent?
    WITNESS: Sure did, and I’m looking for more like him all the time.
    Who do you think comes off the worse in that exchange?

  12. Davis- so player x is convicted for assault, rape or murder. Player x has no prior arrests before coming to IU. Coach Allen has been his mentor, coach and surrogate father which are words Coach Allen has made about his role as head coach. Coach Allen has to admit to promoting violence, teaching violence and rewarding players that demonstrate a willingness for violence. You honestly don’t see how that opens the University to liability when that violence spills over from the playing field in the form of a crime? And in your example, CA also has to admit to looking for additional violent players? “Coach, the families entrusted their sons to you to mentor. And you encouraged violence, rewarded violence and taught them that violence was a virtue. You had to understand that your actions would lead one of your players to this regrettable, foreseeable and otherwise preventable tragedy.”

    1. The people who do not see the pitfalls in that statement likely have never served on a jury.

      If you don’t want to see your comments on the front page of the paper you shouldn’t say them in the first place.

      1. Davis I’ve set on 2 juries. Both of serious circumstance. Unless you are a PC addict or an idiot(which there are both)no 1 considers or accepts the drama and theatre performed in a courtroom. Facts are the only criteria talked to when the jury is out. It’s not like TV courtrooms. Allen’s choice of words are a good blog target.

        1. HC, I’ve been on a jury, too, and have know something about them from the other seats in the courtroom as well, and agree that facts matter the most. But finders of fact catch on pretty fast when a lawyer is flailing around or grasping at straws- which is not exactly facts, but hardly “theatre.” If you meant that “Allen’s choice of words are a good blog target [and nothing more],” I’d agree with you.

          1. Flailing and grasping at at straws is not theater? But I do agree Allen’s words about positive play of a player as a FB coach have very little to do with facts in a courtroom. See little difference between us.

    2. WITNESS: Yeah, mister, I’ve recruited and encouraged violent football players for years. It’s football, y’know, not oragami. I’ve got a whole locker room full of violent football players, some of whom help little old ladies across the street. Am I responsible for that, too?

      1. Legally, yes I think you would have liability in a civil lawsuit if you coached violence, promoted violence and rewarded violence when one of your players says the violence he committed was due in part to what he was taught by IU Football. Especially if no prior criminal acts.

        1. And what’s the big deal? We had a Mellencamp walk-on the football team…or was it the baseball team? Hell, I forgot. Or was it both?
          Doesn’t matter. They are the last people I’m going to internet search.
          We have a practice field named after the father. One of his sons wasn’t ‘violent’ at all on a front porch many summers ago…They were totally innocent. They were only allegedly violent.

          Indiana is already giving a pass for violence. Let’s not make a big deal out of a coach thumping his chest …while trying to be big man on campus. We’ve been there…done that.

          I’d like to see some violent scores…Maybe something as violent as IU 57 OSU 7

        2. But, 123, twelve people (or six depending on the jurisdiction) would actually have to believe that! That is, would believe that the sole proximate cause of the plaintiff’s rape/death/assault was the “attaboys” and high fives (actually, in the case of Allen, handsprings and somersaults) that the co-defendant got for stuffing the fullback on third-and-short?

          ATTY: So, Mr. Jackson, just why did you kill Suzy Smith?”
          THE ACCUSED: “Because I thought Coach would let me start against Penn State next week.”

          Let me ask you something, 123. Would you buy that?

  13. It’s violent football when it’s a Bronco chase….but it’s not a Denver Bronco.

  14. I guess when our society has walked through the looking glass, anything is possible. And by the logic applied to the use of the word “violent,” coaches should not use “hit,” “sack” or “blown up” either! Next thing you know, football coaches referring to their players as “he” or “men” will generate complaints about “toxic masculinity” and gender bias.

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