Miller, McDonald relish second chance at Kansas

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 3, 2013 at 2:31 am •  Published: October 3, 2013
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Getting a second chance to play for Kansas, Darrian Miller can be excused for being self-conscious.

When the sophomore running back ran out of the tunnel before the Jayhawks began their season at home against South Dakota, a single thought raced through his mind.

"I didn't know if anybody would remember me or what people were expecting," he said. "I just kind of kept it all inside, more of just not trying to make it something for myself."

That's because even playing for Kansas this season seemed improbable when Charlie Weis became coach in December 2011.

Weis dismissed Miller for off-field issues soon after being hired, banishing the team's second-leading rusher. Miller transferred to Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., but did not play football so that he could maintain a season of eligibility.

One player on Butler's team, cornerback Dexter McDonald, could empathize.

McDonald also was among the 29 players that Weis dismissed, though his issue was academics. He landed at Butler and told Miller, whom he'd known since high school, to join him. The idea was that they could spend a year there and work their way back to the Division I level.

Maybe even work their way back into Weis's good graces.

"I knew his situation, so I suggested it to him," McDonald said. "They were a great school and a lot of coaches coming in and out of there."

At first, they didn't speak much about trying to return to Kansas. But eventually, both made enough progress that they convinced Weis and running backs coach Reggie Mitchell, who had recruited them, to bring them back to Lawrence.

"I feel like I'm back at home where I should have never left in the first place," McDonald said. "It was already home so it just kind of seemed to me, 'Why not go back?'"

Kansas, which is 2-1 heading into its Big 12 opener against No. 20 Texas Tech on Saturday, has found Miller and McDonald, a junior, to be two stable pieces of a heralded junior college recruiting class that's undergone more shake-ups than expected.