Mars graduate Miele on the move at Slippery Rock

| Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, 6:22 p.m.

It's a new year and a new position for Austin Miele.

The Slippery Rock University senior moved from free safety to linebacker this season. He excelled last year and earned all-PSAC West first-team honors. So, he hopes to bring home some more recognition at his new spot in 2014.

“We lost all three of our linebackers,” he said. “They put me in the box a lot last year. I was definitely more of a run-stopping safety than a pass-stopping safety. We had three good safeties coming back, so it's going to help the defense to move me up.”

The 2011 Mars graduate led The Rock with 90 tackles, including 40 solo stops, 8 12 tackles for loss, 1 12 sacks and an interception last fall in a secondary that ranked fourth in NCAA D-II team passing efficiency defense. He had five pass breakups as well. The coaches believe Miele's quickness in this new role will be valuable in applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

“I will definitely be coming off the edge with a lot of blitzes,” he said. “They are going to be putting in different packages for me. I will be around the line of scrimmage, and I'll always be toward the field and covering wide receivers, too, so I can use my speed.”

Miele spent time at his new position in the spring and picked up the spot quickly. He had a team-best nine tackles in SRU's spring game.

“I am comfortable with it. I have been up (at SRU) in the spring and summer learning the playbook and getting all the blitzes and stunts down, different stuff like that,” he said. “It was good. I am comfortable there. I had success during the spring game. A big thing for me in the offseason was putting on weight. I put on another 10 pounds. I am up to between 210 to 215 pounds now. I am excited and ready to go, for sure.”

Miele, a defensive captain, hopes to cap his collegiate career on a positive note. Last year, The Rock captured the PSAC West championship, but fell to Bloomsburg, 42-38, in the PSAC championship game. The Rock earned an at-large berth to the D-II playoffs, but dropped a 27-20 decision to Winston-Salem State.

Slippery Rock lost its front seven defensive starters to graduation, so Miele wants to help guide the players challenging to earn open spots.

“The guys that are coming back definitely know what it takes to get back there,” he said. “It stung after losing our last two games. It hurt. We have a big senior class coming back and some big shoes to fill. The run we went on last year will definitely help us coming into this year.”

In the PSAC West preseason poll, the Rock were picked to finish third by the division's head coaches for the fourth consecutive year. Indiana (Pa.) was picked to finish atop the poll for the third year in a row, earning five first-place votes. California was picked to finish second with the remaining three first-place votes. Mercyhurst was picked to finish fourth in the division, while Gannon, Edinboro, Clarion and Seton Hill followed.

Miele knows his squad is motivated to surprise some teams. He wants to go out with a championship.

“It's definitely hard to believe my senior year is here. I have been playing football since I was in fifth grade,” he said. “Going into my senior year, I have had a great college career, so far, individually. Last year, we did big things as a team, but we lost our last two games, so we are definitely hungry coming back this year.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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