LEWISTON – Few coaches in any rank of football posses the humor, charisma, and literacy of offensive line coach Mason Miller. If you make your way to an open practice or two, you’ll catch it quickly – he’s a blue chip kind of guy.
In a Saturday afternoon interview, he spoke on Liam Ryan’s move from guard to tackle, his love for yelling, and ultimately how the line needs to work as one cohesive unit. A common phrase in the program reinforces the narrative, “Be a nickel, not five pennies.”
Miller’s debut 2018 season for the Cougar staff was a big one. The offensive line led the nation in sack rate at a 1.9 percent clip – an astronomically low figure proves even more impressive considering the frequency WSU elects to pass.
But Miller isn’t a “me” guy. Statistics and accolades are all relative in his eyes. The line may pick up the first five defenders perfectly, or the quarterback may work a scramble drill and find yardage on a busted route. After all, it’s a team game.
And like Leach’s demeanor indoctrinating his quarterbacks, Millers’ equally rubs off on his lineman. For example, you won’t hear Abe Lucas or Frederick Mauigoa speak a word of their preseason award watch lists mentions.
“If you look too far ahead in life, you’re going to stumble and fall flat on your face. Be where your feet are,” Miller said.
As for putting his words into practice, Miller needs only a foldout chair and some comedic aspect to deliver his message loud and clear.
“Some people weren’t blocking very well so I said ‘I could put a chair out here and get as much use of it.’ And I wanted everybody to feel comfortable with the chair so I put [Andre Dillard’s] jersey on it so they would recognize the chair is actually a better blocker than you are right now.”– Mason Miller
The chair hasn’t been seen since spring practice, but don’t write off its potential return just yet. In Miller’s words, “it’s only day two.”
The dry humor isn’t for all, but the record shows it speaks to a certain type of player and person; the exact mold the program seeks to recruit.
“I look for the guy who is going to be great in four years, not the guy who is great at 18 because he’s bigger and stronger than everyone else,” Miller said. “Plus I want guys who aren’t afraid to work.”
It’s hard to imagine less than a decade ago, the Stanford Cardinal started more offensive lineman in their jumbo set than WSU had suited to play on their entire roster. The change in culture – difficult to express with words – is perfectly illustrated in action.
As Miller’s most recent protégé, Andre Dillard, was drafted 22nd overall to Philadelphia, the former All-American spent plenty of time in the 509 with college teammates throughout spring and even into the summer. Equally cliché as true, the position group is a family.
“I think that’s what our program will move toward,” Miller said. “As they go off in the next level, they’ll learn things that might be valuable to hand down to their buddy.”
Find the entirety of coach Miller’s interview in the video above recorded and posted by the Spokesman-Review.
(Top photo: Andrew Baertlein – Cougar Sports Network)