RCW: The Ultimate Educator
Entering year 40 of his football coaching career, Kansas linebacker coach Bill Miller has worked with a wide variety of players, mentors, staffs and head coaches and although he has evolved enough to keep himself among the most relevant in the game, Miller has stayed true to his roots. At the core of his coaching style is an educator, and to this day, that is how Miller approaches the game, as a teacher.
A Hutchinson, Kansas native, Miller has been in the coaching profession since his playing days finished in 1977 at the University of Texas-Arlington. A two-time Broyles Award semifinalist, Miller’s teaching style has made him among the most-respected in the coaching profession and a great addition to head coach David Beaty’s staff. In coming home to coach, Miller saw a return to his home state and KU as an opportunity to work with a head coach who shares his passion for the game of football.
During his coaching career, Miller has worked for some of the best college football coaches in the game’s history, including Nick Saban, Jimmy Johnson and Jimbo Fisher. According to Miller, Kansas head coach David Beaty shares one key trait with those stellar coaches: passion.
“You cannot do anything without being passionate about what you are doing,” Miller said. “I do not care if you are selling vacuum cleaners; you better be passionate about it. David [Beaty] is first of all a great person; he has a great heart and great football mind. The position he is in is tough, but he gets it. I think we are moving in the right direction and I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Beaty and Miller previously coached together at KU for one season in 2009, and mutual admiration was formed. It was then that Beaty first took notice of Miller’s approach to coaching. Not only did he take notice of his teaching style, but he implemented it into how he worked with his own players.
“When I was here before with Bill, we conducted a clinic here, for all high school coaches,” said Beaty. “He basically showed his drill tape with how he trains, basically, his strike methods with his linebackers. (It) Changed everything for me and my receivers, when I was coaching receivers, in terms of how we blocked.
“The detail at which he coaches, striking on the rise, focused hand placement, feet, keeping your head out of it. Where the head goes, the rear end goes. He had so many details in there, that he spoke it, and those kids understood it. It wasn’t just him going out there and showing them. He was able to speak and had great coaching points because he’s a great, great teacher.”
For Miller, a huge reason he has stayed in the coaching business as long as he has is because the teaching and learning is not just for himself and his players. He enjoys being able to both teach and learn from his peers in the coaching community.
“The coaching profession is great because it is made up mostly of teachers, that is what we really are and I think teachers like to teach and they like to share their knowledge,” said Miller. “That is the great thing about the coaching profession: people are willing to help each other. That is how I have done it. I love to speak at clinics, but I also love to go to clinics and visit with people who I respect.”
Although the core of Miller has stayed the same, he does admit he has altered parts of his style because of those people surrounding recruits, but not the recruits themselves.
“I wish my coaching style had not changed at all to be honest,” Miller laughed. “I do not think that the kids or players have changed; I think parents have changed. I think that is the biggest adjustment that I have seen in myself. As far as my relationships with my players go, it is still the same. I am a teacher and they are the student; you have to get them to do what you want the way you want them to do it.”
For Beaty, the aspect of Miller’s coaching that has set him apart from the other assistant coaches in college football is his ability to motivate his players while still focusing on teaching them the fundamentals.
“I think thing that sticks out to me is Bill Miller is a very mature, detailed coach,” said Beaty. “He’s truly a teacher. I think some of the best coaches I’ve ever been around, all of them, they’re good teachers. You can be a motivator and not really be a good coach, a good teacher. It’s hard to be able to get a lot out of a guy when you’re getting to be my age and Bill’s age without showing them. You’ve got to be able to tell them. You’ve got to be able to show them on film and be able to do things like that. Bill can do that.”
Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., has only had a few months under his belt with his new position coach, but has already come away impressed with the way Miller serves as a mentor.
“Coach Miller knows a lot about the game in general,” Dineen said. “You can tell he has been coaching the position for a long time. He has seen a lot and coached many famous players, including [2018 Football Hall of Fame inductee] Ray Lewis. Every day at practice you kind of absorb information from him, such as how to attack blockers to schemes. I am glad that he is here with us.”
The feeling is mutual for Miller. In his first four months with the coaching staff at Kansas, Miller has been thrilled with his linebacker group’s physicality.
“I am very pleased with their level of effort, and the attention they have given when they are sitting in meetings,” said Miller. “They are anxious to maybe do some different things. They are also showing it on the football field. I think they have been physical, and willing to do some different things: to learn, to give effort, and help each other. That is what this thing is supposed to be all about: teaching and learning.”
Miller is happy with the direction he believes the team is going and is helping coach his players improve on the defensive and overall team concepts of the game.
“I am an old-fashioned guy,” Miller said. “What we have got to do is improve and learn our concepts. It is a very simple game: tackle the guy with the ball. We need to be better tacklers. We are going to have better pursuit. I think the guys have done a great job with the mentality, defensively, about the right way to play the game.
“I think we are going to do more and hold our own coming up here, too, just with the mentality that these guys have. They are in a tough position. Control what you can control. I am very pleased with the direction we are going and I think our whole staff is and I think the guys are, too, which is really important. That is everybody being in the same boat and rowing that boat in the right direction.”
Coach Miller’s impact as an instructor for the Kansas football team goes far and beyond teaching his players. The respect Beaty has for Miller is so high that Beaty asks Miller to speak and teach his coaching staff.
“Miller’s helped elevate all of us,” said Beaty. “He’s been really, really good on that defensive side, but he’s been good for all of us. Bill is a guy who I respect so much that we ask for him to speak quite a bit with our staff, and he does a really nice job of really helping us understand how we should teach things, and how we should say things.”
In 40 years of coaching, it is remarkable to see that no matter how much the game of football has changed, Miller’s role as an educator of the men he coaches has never wavered.