Former Buffalo LB Rich Miller expected to showcase abilities, leadership with KU football

Kansas football linebacker Rich Miller

If Kansas football linebackers coach Chris Simpson is correct, the best days of Rich Miller’s college career are just ahead of him, heading into Miller’s first season with the Jayhawks.

During his first two years playing for Simpson and head coach Lance Leipold at Buffalo, the linebacker from Detroit took on a small but important role as a reserve within the unit’s rotation. The speedy Miller appeared in all seven of the Bulls’ games as a backup during their 6-1 2020 season, and he finished with 13 total tackles.

Simpson doesn’t think those numbers do justice to Miller’s value.

“He doesn’t have a ton of stats, quite honestly. And to be quite frank, I had a pretty veteran group in Buffalo,” Simpson said recently, while sharing what he likes about the 6-foot-1, 230-pound junior.

When Simpson was still the linebackers coach at UB, he said his position group the past couple of seasons was filled with linebackers whom he considered to be not only good players, but quality leaders and individuals.

“And Rich was one of those,” Simpson added.

Once Miller put his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, Simpson said the appeal of inviting a known and trusted linebacker on board in Lawrence was obvious. Simpson thinks his pupil still has “a lot of time left to showcase what he can do.”

Though Miller and five other former Buffalo players didn’t arrive at KU until after the spring semester, Simpson said he was encouraged by what he saw from Miller even just a couple of weeks into the summer.

Since the former Bulls became Jayhawks, Simpson could tell Miller, senior defensive linemen Eddie Wilson and Ronald McGee, junior center Mike Novitsky, sophomore receiver Trevor Wilson and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Michael Ford Jr., have been able to prove to their new teammates through their weight room workouts and limited on-field activities that they have the ability to contribute.

“They’re good people first and foremost, which, it makes it easy to assimilate when you’re a good person,” Simpson added of the transition for the former MAC players.

As the adjustment period continues through the summer, Simpson thinks the Buffalo transfers will further prove their worth when preseason practices begin in a few weeks.

“Just like I haven’t seen any of the (returning) KU players play football, well, none of those KU players have seen these Buffalo guys play football. It’s a blended family as far as that part goes,” he said.

Simpson has encouraged KU players, especially his linebackers, to reach out to Miller and use him as a resource as Leipold, his staff and the Jayhawks ramp up for the coming season.

“He really does know the defense. He knows the calls. He really could play any three of the linebacker positions,” Simpson said.

At Buffalo, Simpson said Leipold and his staff established a culture in which player’s took ownership in various endeavors, and that’s what the coaches want to get accomplished at KU, too.

“Everybody’s in it to help each other,” Simpson said. “It’s competitive, but it’s competitive in a way that we’re trying to get us better, both individually and collectively.”

Simpson expects Miller and the other UB transfers will play a part in creating that type of working environment with KU football now that they’ve followed Leipold and several of his assistants to the Big 12. He thinks the former MAC players, just like the new coaches on staff, are excited to prove themselves in a Power Five conference.

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