In Miami’s 24-6 upset of No. 17-ranked Ohio State last weekend, running back Lamar Miller carried the ball 26 times. He ran almost the entire length of the field twice -- 184 yards. He also caught a pass, and returned one kickoff 20 yards for a grand total of 205 yards against the Buckeyes.
Not even close.
In fact, Miller said he felt good enough to go another quarter.
“I wasn’t that tired,” he said. “We have great conditioning so I wasn’t tired at all. I took [the offseason conditioning] very seriously because our main two goals as a team were being in better conditioning and unity. We came together as a team and worked hard during the offseason.”
It’s paying dividends early for Miller and Miami’s offense. Miller is fourth in the country with 151.5 rushing yards per game, and the Canes are averaging 206 as a team. The only question is whether or not he can maintain that pace. Miller and those within the program have no doubt he’s strong enough and durable enough to keep it up. If he can, he’s already on pace to become Miami’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Willis McGahee in 2002.
First-year coach Al Golden said he doesn’t think Miller can maintain this pace – he knows he can.
“When I got here I would not even classify him in the top 50 percent of the team in conditioning,” first-year coach Al Golden said. “But I really think he made a conscious decision along with Mike James in the month of May after spring ball and June and then really started to get better and better as July and August came. In May, when a lot of guys are throttling down, he knew he was way behind in conditioning and attacked it and didn’t sweep it under the rug. I think he’s in great condition both mentally and physically right now.”
Miller is listed at 5-foot-11, 212 pounds. He said he gained about five pounds this offseason and got more explosive, which has helped him create big plays. Golden said he’s trying to get Miller about 30 touches a game, including passes out of the backfield and kick returns.
It’s a dramatically increased role for the sophomore, who only started one of the 11 games he played in last year. Despite his lack of starting experience, it’s not a stretch to consider him one of the best running backs in the country after only two games. Running backs coach Terry Richardson didn’t hesitate this week when asked if Miller is Heisman material.
“He is that talented,” Richardson said. “I would say he has that type of ability. He’s a real good player. He’s probably one of the more talented tailbacks I’ve coached.”
And yet there’s still room from improvement.
“There’s a lot of things he can do to get better,” Richardson said. “He’s a guy who, this is his first season starting. He has not topped out. He can get bigger, stronger, faster. There’s a lot of football IQ he can improve on as a player and more technique and fundamental things he can do to make himself even more productive.”
More? He already leads the ACC in all-purpose yards and rushing, and he is third in the league in kick return average.
“He’s been playing football for so long he has a natural vision, top-end speed, strong legs, he looks like a running back,” Richardson said. “Football is important to him. He likes the game. He just goes and goes.”
No breaks necessary.