- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Maryland’s Derek Miller wondered at times what it would be like to be an offensive tackle. After all, he had a lineman’s frame and was accustomed to blocking because of his duties as a tight end.

When starting left tackle Stephon Heyer tore the ACL in his left knee in camp last month, the long-time tight end’s daydream became reality.

The 6-foot-7, 270-pound senior has started the season’s first two games for the Terrapins (1-1), who play host to West Virginia (2-0) Saturday at Byrd Stadium. Miller’s willingness to swap positions has provided a stopgap on Maryland’s inexperienced offensive line and perhaps opened some possibilities for his future.

“In this day and time, you don’t see what Derek Miller is doing,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “You don’t have kids volunteering to step into a position that could make them look bad. I actually think it makes him look good, not only from an unselfish team role, but also from any future football he might play.”

Miller was part of the Terps’ tight end rotation the last three years, starting all 11 games last season. The Carlisle, Pa., native was never much of an offensive threat — he has five career receptions — but he pondered the possibility of becoming a lineman.

“I always thought to myself that when I started gaining all this weight I didn’t want, ‘Well, if I can put on 30 pounds, I could probably be a half-decent tackle,’” Miller said.

He never added that weight, which wasn’t a problem when Miller was blocking strong-side linebackers who were 30 pounds lighter than he was. With the move to tackle, he’s matched against defensive tackles, many of whom weigh more than he does.

Though Miller hasn’t been perfect, he’s adapted well to his new position. That could come in handy if he opts to pursue a professional career, especially if he can further increase his versatility.

“Instead of playing one position — a traditional tight end — you might be able to play six positions for a National Football League team,” tight ends coach Ray Rychleski said. “With a 45-man [game-day] roster, [if] they could get a guy who can play tight end, tackle and guard, they could have a heck of a thing going.”

For now, Miller has earned plenty of respect from teammates, who appreciate his willingness to fill a needed hole.

“He really showed he’ll do anything for us,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “If you had another guy, I don’t think they’d want to do anything like that because they’d want to do what they’ve been doing there. The coaches asked him to move over there and he did it. He’s real humble.”

Miller’s shift probably won’t be permanent. True freshman Jared Gaither played some in the first two games and practiced with the first team Monday, and Friedgen said sophomore Scott Burley (back) could return soon.

That would give the Terps enough depth to permit Miller to move back to tight end.

“I took playing tackle as a challenge,” Miller said. “I’ve done all right. I’m sure someone else can do better, but I’m also giving up a lot of weight. I don’t mind it, but I do look forward to going back to tight end. I feel at home there.”

Notes — Receiver Derrick Fenner, who suffered a concussion Sept. 3 against Navy, participated in noncontact drills yesterday. “He can’t have contact until [tomorrow],” Friedgen said. “We don’t do a lot of contact on Thursday anyway, so I guess his first contact will be Saturday.” …

Fullback Tim Cesa (mononucleosis) will return Saturday after sitting out the first two games, while backup kicker Obi Egekeze (right quadriceps) is likely to miss his third consecutive game. … Maryland added 500 extra seats for Saturday’s game, which is sold out.

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