Former Westover star Keion Miller, who now starts as a sophomore at safety for Albany State, has had a knack for giving offenses headaches and making big plays on defense all season. (Reginald Christian/Albany State University)
WHO: Clark Atlanta (2-5, 2-3) at Albany State (4-3, 3-1).
WHAT: ASU’s fifth conference game of the season; Homecoming.
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday.
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
LIVE UPDATES: Log onto: twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
ALBANY — Keion Miller has done a lot of changing since graduating from Westover in 2010 and joining the Albany State football team.
He changed positions midway through last season from receiver to defensive back and then changed numbers between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Now he is changing games.
Miller’s latest game-changing play came in the second quarter of Saturday’s 16-13 victory against Morehouse when he picked up a blocked PAT attempt and ran it back 90 yards for two points. The return came in the second quarter immediately after Morehouse scored the first touchdown of the game and it gave momentum back to the Rams, who took the lead three plays later and never looked back.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” ASU coach Mike White said of Miller’s play. “It was huge.”
Miller said Wednesday at practice that there was just one thing on his mind when he picked up the blocked kick.
“I took off and didn’t see anything but grass,” the sophomore said. “I just took off, hoping to get in the end zone.”
He got there, high-stepping over the goal line along the way and giving the Rams enough momentum to come back for their third straight win.
“I didn’t have it rehearsed,” he said with smile, referring to the high-step celebration. “It came so unexpectedly. I never thought that would happen on a (PAT) block.”
And now Miller, who starts at defensive back and has 25 tackles and five pass breakups this season, can’t stop hearing about the play.
“At church, my pastor — who is my uncle, too — and everyone was saying they saw my picture (in The Herald) and heard about the play,” Miller said. “They were telling me good job and everything.
“I love the hometown support. Everywhere I go people are telling me good job and they see me out there doing good things.”
Miller, who is 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, came to ASU as a receiver after playing WR and safety at Westover but didn’t see any action as a freshman last season until White and his coaching staff were looking to change things up on defense.
“As a staff, we were sitting down try to figure that out, and (offensive coordinator Uyl) Joyner suggested trying Miller at corner,” White said.
Joyner, who was the offensive coordinator at Dougherty High, was familiar with Miller’s talent in the secondary when he played for Westover. Miller started his first game of his collegiate career last season against Kentucky State and finished with 19 tackles and four breakups, getting better every time he stepped on the field.
“He has progressed slowly because he didn’t know the coverages last year,” White said. “He came in the middle of the season and didn’t have camp like the rest of the guys did and had to kind of learn as he went through the season.
“He has gradually come on. We like his size. He is a tough guy, and he is a very physical corner. When you have that kind of size, you try to keep everything in front of you. That’s basically what we try to do with him.”
Miller is joined in the secondary by fellow defensive back Gary Howard, strong safety Dexter Moody and free safety and Albany native Chavius Jackson. They have combined for 105 tackles and seven interceptions and have given White confidence in an area that was ASU’s weakest just a season ago.
In 2011, ASU allowed a conference-worst 229 passing yards per game and 21 passing touchdowns. This season, the Rams are giving up 193 yards through the air per game and haven’t been burnt on long pass plays like they were last season.
“We know our coverages better this year,” Miller said. “We rarely make mistakes and count on each other to help each other out.”