August 10, 2004
Andrew Walter said whoever is playing H-back in Arizona State's twin tight end formation will have an important role.
"It's absolutely critical," the senior quarterback said. "He's got to know a lot. He's got to do a lot. He's got to be versatile. It's everything."
And the player tabbed to do all that is freshman Zach Miller, the former Desert Vista High School All-American.
Miller was rated the No. 1 tight end prospect in the country. He had his choice of schools but picked the Sun Devils, joining his brother Brent, a redshirt freshman tight end.
ASU coach Dirk Koetter has made no bones about his belief Miller is good enough to play immediately.
The national publicity, being a local product and being compared favorably to the greatest tight end at the school (Todd Heap) adds up to an extraordinary amount of pressure on Miller.
"Yes, there's pressure that comes along with it," he said. "But I don't let it bother me.
"Some pressure is good because it'll make me play better."
Last season Kyle Caldwell was in a similar situation. Caldwell was a local star at Saguaro High School. He was a national top 100 recruit. He played a position that had been vacated by the most decorated player in ASU history (Terrell Suggs).
Miller said he's spoken once to Caldwell about the expectations, during a recruiting visit.
"He just told me it's going to be a lot tougher than high school," Miller said. "A lot more work. A lot more complicated. (He said) you've got to be smart."
Miller appears to be off to a fast start.
What's impressed Koetter has been Miller's grasp of the system.
Walter has noticed it, too.
"They've thrown a lot at the tight ends so they can get the mistakes out early and then tighten it down for the season," Walter said. "He's responded well with all that."
Miller caught 47 passes for 790 yards and six touchdowns for Desert Vista last fall.
"He's a great athlete. He can run," Walter said. "He's got good hands. I think he has pretty good instincts."
As an H-back, Miller will be required to do important blocking, too.
"I'll have to do my technique right and do all things right that I can control," he said of his blocking. "Everyone is going to be stronger and it's a lot different blocking than in high school."
Miller showed his eagerness to play by attending most of ASU's spring practices.
This summer he worked with the receivers and quarterbacks twice a week, ran and lifted with the rest of the team, and studied the playbook.
"They're giving me a chance. They say the position is up for grabs," Miller said. "I have a pretty good shot at it."
Of his goals, Miller simply said, "I want to learn the offense as quick as I can and be able to get in as a starter as quick as possible."
Heap, ASU's all-time best at tight end, didn't start his freshman season but left fans a calling card when he made a spectacular touchdown catch in the 1998 opener against Washington. Koetter has spoken of Miller as another Heap.
"(Heap) is the prototypical tight end," Miller said. "Being compared to him is good because it'll make me want to be as good as him or better."
In the new offense, he'll get the opportunity.
"We'll use him a lot," Walter said. "We wouldn't be doing as much (in practice) with him early if that wasn't the case."