Notebook: Miller prepares to face UNI two years after committing there


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When Tanner Miller lines up in the secondary and looks down the field at the Northern Iowa offense, he insists he won’t be thinking about how close those players were to being his teammates.

“I can’t focus too much on that now,” the Hawkeye safety said on Tuesday. “I see it as just another game.”

For much of his senior year in high school in 2010, Miller thought he was headed to Northern Iowa to play football. He had earned first-team All-State honors his last two years at Mid-Prairie High School in Kalona. But that hadn’t earned him a scholarship offer from a BCS program — only invitations to walk-on from the likes of Iowa and Nebraska.

But two days before national signing day, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz offered Miller a scholarship. And now Miller will start at safety in a black helmet on Sept. 15 rather than a purple one.

“I don’t know if I remember all the exact details, other than we have done that with several guys where recruiting is an unpredictable time,” Ferentz said. “We made that phone call, and he was receptive. He certainly was, quote-unquote, under-recruited.”

Miller started 11 games for Iowa at safety last season and tied the school record for longest interception return. He said this week that it was difficult to call Panther coach Mark Farley and tell him of his change, but that the chance to play for an Football Bowl Subdivision team was too exciting not to take.

“That was my whole goal in high school, to play at the highest level possible,” Miller said. “That chance arrived, and that’s not something a lot of kids are going to pass up.”

DE McMinn returns

Iowa’s defensive line gained one more member on Sept. 8 as redshirt freshman Riley McMinn made his Hawkeye début against Iowa State.

The 6-7, 245-pound defensive end saw a handful of snaps in Iowa’s loss to the Cyclones. He had missed much of fall camp with what he called “problems with my groin.” But McMinn is healthy and was glad he had the chance to see the field.

“Those few plays I had were quite the experience,” he said. “It’s been over a year since my last game. My last game was in high school, so it was great to get back out there.”

McMinn joined a line that has played surprisingly well this season. And it has been a deep line as well, rotating at least six players onto the field. McMinn said that would help the linemen stay fresh.

“I think it’s beneficial,” he said. “That way you can go as hard as you can for a shorter number of plays and keep the energy rolling.”

Sleeper suspension ends

Ferentz announced on Tuesday that safety Colin Sleeper’s suspension had been lifted. The head coach said at the team’s media day on Aug. 6 that Sleeper would serve a “multi-game” suspension for team violations.

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