As Deon Miller approaches the start of his final football season at Temple he is surrounded by lofty expectations; both his own and those of his coach.
A native of Highland Springs, Virginia, Miller arrived at Temple in 2010 via Highland Springs High School and Fork Union Military Academy. He also competed in track in high school, as a hurdler and a jumper.
Miller has played in 32 games in his three seasons with the Owls and started 13 of them at wide receiver. Twelve of those starts came in 2011 when he caught a career-high 18 passes.
But injuries and illness have hampered Miller over the course of his career.
Last year he was sidelined by mononucleosis early in the season and caught just seven passes in eight games.
This season he missed some time early in camp because of heat-related issues.
First-year head coach Matt Rhule learned a lot about Miller during Rhule’s tenure as an Owls assistant
“He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s powerful,” Rhule says. “He’s just never been able to be healthy really for a full year. Unfortunately he’s been kind of backed up with some dehydration type things… He’d be a real plus for us. He’s a big target, big targets are tough to cover.”
“It was very difficult,” Miller says of his past health issues, “especially physically at the beginning of [the 2012 season] But it got better, it got a lot better.”
Prior to camp Miller put in a lot of extra hours preparing for his senior season. “ I worked very hard on mandatory days as well as off days,” he says. “Preparing, working on technique, doing everything I can to help the team out.”
Miller notes that at the collegiate level it’s important for receivers to after every ball aggressively, regardless of the situation.
“That’s very important, attacking every ball,” he says. “Because it may not be in the place we wish it would be or the quarterback wishes it would be.”
Rhule is quick to point out that there’s much more to being a good college receiver than simply running routes.
“We ask them to make a lot of decisions on the run,” he says. “There has to be a relationship there.
“You can’t just put a guy out there. He has to know what he’s doing against any coverage and he and the quarterback have to be on the same page. You can’t have guys showing up out of nowhere.”
As the clock counts down to Temple’s season opener at Notre Dame on Aug. 31 Miller is working to strengthen his relationship with the Owls quarterback corps. There were seven signal callers on the roster at the start of camp; the leading candidates at present are junior Connor Reilly and senior Juice Granger who started the last two games of 2012.
Rhule says he’ll name a starter by the time the heavy preparations begin for Notre Dame and Miller wants to be sure he’s in synch with whoever is under center.
“It’s about repetition,” he says, “Working with not just the starting quarterback, but every quarterback so you can get used to them.
“You never know who’s going to be in the game.”