Most Kansas fans who double as recruitniks expect Darrian Miller to be good.
In actuality, they expect him to be really good. It's what happens when one has the type of prep career he did, racking up almost 3,000 yards on the ground as a junior in 2009 - en route to earning Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year honors - and following it up with a stellar senior campaign.
It also doesn't hurt that he's local - hailing from nearby Blue Springs (MO) High School - and coached by a former Kansas Jayhawk in Kelly Donohoe.
Still, even the most optimistic prognosticator couldn't have predicted the splash Miller made in Lawrence, Kan. this spring. An early enrollee at Kansas, and thus eligible for spring football, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound tailback began turning heads almost immediately.
Even typically reserved head coach Turner Gill seemed impressed – and with good reason. In the first full contact scrimmage of the spring, he rumbled for an eye-opening four touchdowns on the ground.
"Darrian definitely had some good runs today and he showed that he has good vision and direction, and showed a good burst of speed," Gill said.
A little more than a week later, Miller stood out during practice again ripping off big gains with his signature highlight-reel runs.
If there's one area where the Jayhawks appear to be loaded with talent heading into the 2011 season it's running back. In addition to sophomore James Sims, the team's leading returning returning rusher and one of the tops in the conference, Kansas boasts a stable that includes highly-touted redshirt freshman Brandon Bourbon, incoming freshman Anthony Pierson - a true speed demon and the most highly-touted member of the Class of 2011 - and, of course, Miller. That list doesn't even include Wichita (KS) Heights product Dreamius Smith, yet another incoming freshman who put up huge numbers at the prep level, and veterans such as Rell Lewis and Deshaun Sands.
What helps set Miller apart from the crowd is that he's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades from a skill standpoint. While perhaps not quite as vertically fast as Bourbon or Pierson, or as strong as Sims, he possesses a unique blend of the two qualities for his size. Combine them with his innate vision, sense of balance and agility, and he becomes a seriously dangerous total package in the backfield.
Though sophomore Jordan Webb did manage to obtain a bit of separation from senior Quinn Mecham during the spring, some questions and concerns remain about the stability of the quarterback position following last year's tumultuous ride under center. In his post-spring press conference, Gill didn't rule out the possibility of one of the program's talented incoming freshmen - Brock Berglund and Michael Cummings - coming in and winning the job.
Thus, it's logical to expect the 2011 Jayhawks will lean rather heavily on the running game, possibly utilizing as many as three backs with regularity. Though nothing is written in stone, it seems likely his strong spring will earn Miller a spot in that rotation - and on the field.