VTech's Wilson, Miami's Miller to square off
Given their personalities, Virginia Tech's David Wilson and Miami's Lamar Miller don't exactly have a lot in common.
Wilson is flashy, someone who wears shirt-and-tie to classes and drives around in a tricked-out Thunderbird with an ostrich skin interior and a custom paint job in Hokies colors. Miller tends to be quiet in many situations, the type of guy who leaves campus as often as he can to spend time with his mother and thinks a big night is one where he plays video games for hours.
That's off the field.
On the field, Wilson and Miller look very much alike - and odds are they'll both play a key role Saturday, when the guys separated by inches in the league's yards-per-game standings lead their teams into a key Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.
''There's still a lot of room for improvement,'' Miller said.
True, and that is being said by both Hokies and Hurricanes this week. There just isn't a lot of time to make any improvements before Miami (2-2, 0-1 ACC) and No. 21 Virginia Tech (4-1, 0-1) get together in Blacksburg, Va. on Saturday. A chance to remain a legit ACC hopeful awaits the winner, while the loser will be in big-time trouble in terms of the league race.
Wilson and Miller won't be going head-to-head, of course, but it's tempting to draw that parallel nonetheless. Wilson is averaging an ACC-best 127.8 yards per game with five touchdowns on the ground through five games. Miller is averaging 127.75 yards per game - it rounds up to 127.8, though he technically still ranks behind Wilson - and four rushing touchdowns in four games.
''As a competitor, if I see an edge, I'm going to try to take it,'' Wilson said. ''If I see two yards here and I see that nobody's out here and I could score, it becomes tempting.''
Both are piling up big plays in bunches so far this season.
Miller has had a run of at least 41 yards in every game so far in the 2011 campaign, making him the only back in major college football to achieve that feat. And Wilson had one of the highlights of the year last week in a loss to Clemson, when he dodged defenders for 21 seconds - a marathon span for any play - changing direction several times and escaping a huge loss before finally getting a first down.
''You don't have to worry about lack of effort from David Wilson, I can promise you that,'' Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. ''I don't have his stats right here to see how many broken tackles and yards after contact he had but there was a lot.''
Which is becoming Wilson's calling card. He opened the season with 15 broken tackles against Appalachian State. He's up to 60 for the season.
''He's an excellent running back,'' Miami coach Al Golden said. ''He can run between the tackles, he's strong, he's physical, but as you saw last Saturday he's got incredible elusiveness and can improvise. We have to make sure we do everything we can to stop the run.''
Wilson tends to run over defenders.
Miller prefers going right past them.
A 41-yard run for a touchdown against Maryland, a 54-yard burst against Ohio State, a 59-yard touchdown against Kansas State and a 43-yard score last week against Bethune-Cookman were all pretty much created with the same simple formula. Blockers do their jobs, create any sort of real opening, and the speedy Miller will be through that hole before the defense can even realize it's there.
And Virginia Tech saw that all too often last year in Miami, when Miller piled up 163 yards on just 15 carries against the Hokies.
''This running back, Lamar Miller, I think is exceptional,'' Beamer said.
The Hurricanes say the same things about Wilson - an All-American in the triple jump who has a photo on his phone of another of his memorable moments, getting flipped upside down on a run against Maryland as a freshman.
But by sundown in Blacksburg on Saturday night, either Miller or Wilson will be starring for a team that could realistically be afterthoughts in the ACC race.