Tennessee Stat Book
Corey Miller never expected it to be easy.
The Tennessee freshman didn't plan on it taking quite so long, though.
There was an anticipated learning curve from one level to the next, and picking up defensive schemes and improving technique doesn't happen overnight. But even before Miller could start adapting mentally to life with the Vols, he had to go through a rapid physical change if he was going to contribute in games like Saturday's at Vanderbilt (TV: CSS, 7:30 p.m.)
So before he could start piling up any sacks, Miller had to stuff them with all the groceries he could find as soon as he arrived on campus.
"It's just that when I came in I was a little slim, about 227 pounds," Miller said Wednesday during his first media session with the program. "I came in and put on 30 pounds. From that point forward, it's all about adapting to these 30 pounds and getting ready to roll.
"I got here and actually I went (wild). You know, I started spending money on every kind of food I could find, because when I'm at home, I can't do that. So here, I'm just going to blow it and get fat - that's my plan."
That's not exactly the blueprint, but Miller also isn't done packing on to his 6-foot-3 frame either as he simultaneously expands his role defensively.
After picking up his first sack in a blowout win for UT (4-6, 1-5 SEC) over Ole Miss last week, Miller vowed to add 15 more pounds before next season when he and fellow freshman Jacques Smith appear set to take over the line. They both continue to be listed behind seniors on either end of the defensive front heading into the trip to face the Commodores (2-8, 1-6 SEC), but with Smith picking up a sack in each of the last two games and Miller finally tallying his first, the talented bookends are at least giving a glimpse of the future.
"It did feel like a long time coming," Miller said. "I'm used to getting sacks, back in high school my senior year I got 18 of them, so I was just like, 'Man, I'm ready to get one.' Then again, I've got to perfect my technique before I'm ready to get a sack.
"I mean, me and Jacques talk about it all the time. I feel like since I got on campus, that's like my brother, man. I love the boy to death, and we're going to do whatever we can to be successful in the future. We know we want to take over the defensive line. Us two for the future, we want it to be our line and do it the way we do things, the way (defensive line coach) Chuck (Smith) wants us to do things and build a bully."
Miller could have been the one getting pushed around without all those early meals and time in the weight room, though all the extra weight admittedly slowed him down early in camp and added on a bit to the adjustment process.
It's certainly not over yet, but with at least one tackle now in seven consecutive games and the first sack in his pocket, Miller appears to be on his way.
"I think Corey has worked and grinded throughout the year," defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "He's played through a little bit of that, learning how to play and learning the difference between being injured and being hurt. Some of those guys are hurting but battling through it, and Corey's one of those guys."
That's obviously not the only lesson Miller has had to learn in his first year with the program, though he anticipated some ups and downs.
But aside from playbooks and tougher competition, there's also literally been a lot on his plate as well.
"At first, I felt a lot slower coming off the ball and I was like, 'Oh man, it's going to be a long one,'" Miller said. "But in due time, you do adjust to it and everything that's around you, so I was kind of excited about it.
"I feel as if it's the first sack, yeah, it feels good, but I've got a long road ahead of me and there's no need to get complacent. Definitely, being a freshman defensive end in the SEC, I expect some hard times to come. It's just all about how I handle my situation and persevere through it."