Helena’s Matt Miller has a to-do list about as long as his list of accomplishments as he tries to capitalize on the first healthy spring of his career.
The Boise State sophomore wide receiver wants to become a leader, develop better speed and strength, learn the intricacies of the offense and polish his routes.
The 2010 Capital High graduate is coming off a year in which he set Boise State freshman records with 62 catches (tied for first on the team), 679 yards (second) and nine touchdown catches (second). He earned first-team Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America.
“The thing with Matt, if you know his personality, he’s not one to just rest on his laurels,” offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Robert Prince said.
Miller’s fantastic freshman season was made more remarkable by his lack of practice. He tore an Achilles tendon in fall camp in August 2010 and didn’t return to practice full time until August 2011.
This year, he gets the full experience of winter conditioning and spring practice. He has gained about eight pounds (he’s 6-foot-3, 218 pounds) and feels faster.
Those improvements should help him get off the line of scrimmage and into his routes more easily.
“That’s really beneficial to me,” he said of the extra work. “… A lot of small stuff will take me to the next step I need to get to.”
Coaches limited what Miller needed to know last year, as they usually do with freshman receivers. He spent the vast majority of his time in one of the Broncos’ three wide receiver positions.
This year, he wants to give Prince more flexibility.
“If they needed me to do it, I could line up in any receiver spot now and feel comfortable,” he said.
Miller is less comfortable as a leader — but the mellow Montanan has figured out, with a little encouragement from his coaches, that he needs to fill that role.
“There’s no question when a guy has the credibility as a player that there’s going to be a lot of eyes on him,” coach Chris Petersen said. “If you’re a solid, really good person, that to me is the second hurdle. And then the third thing is if you want to do it and if you take action.
“Matt is a very quiet, reserved guy but he understands — even though he’s a sophomore — what we need out of him.”
Miller says expanding his leadership skills is “a major goal.” That means becoming more vocal, which doesn’t fit his personality.
He has made a point of talking to more players in the locker room and connecting with guys from much different backgrounds.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I’m not really used to it. I’m trying. I’m sure to most people it doesn’t seem like I’m saying much still, but mentally I’m really trying to do it.”
Miller is accustomed to being one of his team’s star players. He grew up as one of the top athletes in Montana, claiming the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior at Capital. That season, he also was the state’s co-offensive player of the year, first-team all-state as a receiver and cornerback, and second-team all-state as a punt returner.
In the Treasure State, too, he was understated in his approach.
“When I did say something, kids usually listened,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is build that same kind of thing.”
Said Petersen: “It doesn’t happen overnight. He’s making strides. Just like (former quarterback Kellen Moore) — he had that personality as well — it’s going to come through time with a lot of trust being built amongst his teammates.”
Miller’s work ethic and team-first attitude will help.
So will his results, not that he gets caught up in stats.
“I’m all about one thing and that’s just winning games,” he said. “I’ve always been about that. Right now, it’s just not have a blunder like we had last year against TCU and try to get that first win against Michigan State.”