LAWRENCE — When freshman running back Darrian Miller left Kansas in January 2012, KU coach Charlie Weis made it clear that Miller was being booted from the program for off-the-field issues.
Weis was new on the job, and Miller was part of a program-wide thinning of the herd.
But more than a year later, Miller will get a second chance to make things right with Weis and the Jayhawks. Miller is returning to the KU program and will suit up this fall as a redshirt sophomore, Weis announced Tuesday.
“Coach Weis has given me a rare opportunity,” Miller said in a release from the school. “I get the chance to get this right. I am truly thankful for this opportunity and I intend to make the most of it.”
For Weis and Kansas, this has all the makings of another impact addition after the Jayhawks finished 1-11 last season.
Miller will join a deep backfield that features senior James Sims, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2012, and junior speedster Tony Pierson. As a freshman in 2011, Miller rushed for 559 yards on just 136 carries, displaying a glimpse of the talent he showed during a prolific career at Blue Springs (Mo.) High.
Miller (5-foot-10 and 190 pounds) rushed for 6,565 yards at Blue Springs, breaking the Missouri big-class career rushing record. A first-team All-Metro selection by The Kansas City Star, Miller was rated as the 22nd-best running back in the country.
Miller’s debut season at Kansas, however, was marred by maturity issues and off-the-field problems. According to Miller, he left the school in good academic standing. But some behavioral missteps forced Weis to dismiss him from the team.
“Coach Weis is giving me an opportunity to rejoin the Kansas football team with stipulations,” Miller said. “When I left Kansas after the 2011 season, I was in good academic standing. I was dismissed for off-the-field issues that I take full accountability for. I made mistakes as a freshman that not only led to my dismissal, but hurt the Kansas football team. I regret this happened, but I have learned a great life lesson during this ordeal.”
Miller is the second player to return to the program after leaving when Weis arrived. Defensive back Dexter McDonald, a former Rockhurst standout, returned this spring after spending last fall at Butler Community College. (McDonald’s departure was related to academics.) Miller is also the second transfer in the last week who will arrive at Kansas looking for a second chance.
Former Miami (Ohio) receiver Nick Harwell is transferring to Kansas after being dismissed from Miami for legal issues. Harwell was charged with a single count of attempted theft, a second-degree misdemeanor, stemming from an incident earlier this spring.
“We constantly research special situations concerning transfer students,” Weis said. “Each situation is unique. Occasionally through our due diligence we find a player who fits. This was the case with both Darrian and Nick (Harwell). We believe both young men are prepared to thrive at Kansas on and off the field.”
Harwell will have just one season of eligibility at KU, but Miller could be a long-term solution at the running back position. Still just a sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining, Miller will be in position to replace the production of Sims, who will be a senior this fall.
“My only goal now is to help Coach Weis return Kansas football to respectability,” Miller said. “I am ready to work hard to be a contributing factor to the program. I am looking forward to joining the team as soon as possible and building up relationships with both my former and new teammates.”