BOISE — The decision was an easy one for Matt Miller, and it had little to do with football.
The biggest reason Miller knew returning to his alma mater at Boise State was a no-brainer? His wife.
Miller’s wife, Sarah Baugh, is a former Boise State athlete herself, and was eager to return to Boise.
“Happy wife, happy life,” Miller joked.
Boise State’s record-setting receiver is back in blue after spending the past four seasons as an assistant coach at Montana State. He was wide receivers coach for three seasons and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach his final season in 2019.
When Eric Kiesau was promoted to offensive coordinator at Boise State, Miller seemed like the logical choice to replace him. And that’s exactly how it played out.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Miller said. “We’re super excited to be back down here. It’s a great opportunity with a great program and one that means a whole bunch to us and to me personally.”
Miller was a standout receiver for the Broncos from 2011 to 2014. He remains Boise State’s all-time receptions leader with 244 and is third with both 3,049 receiving yards and 29 receiving touchdowns. His numbers would have been even better had he not been limited to just five games as a senior due to an ankle injury.
The Montana native had 88 catches for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior and was on pace to shatter those numbers as a senior when he went down early in the year. He had at least 62 catches, 679 receiving yards and five touchdowns in each of his first three seasons.
And now he’s back to try and help Boise State’s current group of wide receivers top those numbers.
“I’m sure there’s some credibility that goes a long way with that, but I’m just working every day to build those connections with the players,” Miller said. “Getting them to trust you as a coach is the main thing, and I think just being around those guys and letting them get a feel for who I am and me to get a feel for who those guys are is a big thing.”
The Broncos lose star wide receiver John Hightower, but bring back their next two best pass catchers from 2019 in Khalil Shakir and CT Thomas. Shakir was second on the team with 63 catches, 872 yards and six touchdowns, while Thomas was third in all three categories with 41 catches, 522 yards and five touchdowns.
Octavius Evans and Stefan Cobbs also appear ready for increased roles after making minimal contributions last season.
“I think we have a very deep position at wide receiver,” Miller said. “We have some guys that have played a lot of football for us at Boise State, and we’ve got some young guys are very talented and developing the right mindset to go be difference makers in the fall.
“I’m very fortunate to have a great group of guys. Coach Kiesau did a nice job recruiting that room and putting the right pieces in place and now it’s my job to make those guys one percent better every day. I think they have that mindset, but I just have to keep pushing them.”
Miller said his four years at Montana State, including the time as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, helped him broaden his knowledge of the offense as a whole.
“You get in that wide receiver life and you just focus on the outside a whole bunch and the wide receivers and the pass game, but when you’re the offensive coordinator you are focused on all 11 pieces and understanding what everybody does,” Miller said. “I grew a lot not just as a football coach, but as a leader and with building my style as a coach.”
Asked about his coaching style, Miller said he’s not someone that will be loud and yell at players much, but “there’s a time and place where you have to get a little loud and get in someone’s grill,” he said. He is a stickler for proper technique and fundamentals, calling himself a “tactician” when it comes to running routes.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to give those guys some knowledge of what was successful for me as well as things I’ve learned along the way being a coach the last few years,” Miller said. “How you do anything is how you do everything. There’s high standards and a way to do things and learning that as an 18 year old is a heck of a lot easier than as a 28 year old.
“It’s part of your DNA. Live your life with high standards and expectations and detail, and that’s what I’ve done and it’s led to some success for me.”
Boise State suspended spring practices earlier this week due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus. It’s unclear if the Broncos will get to resume practices. Fall camp is slated to start around Aug. 1.
It sounds cliché but coaching at Boise State has always been Miller’s dream. Now he is ready to live it out.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I was 17 years old and signed to come play here,” Miller said. “There’s always been something about that blue turf to me that’s had a special place in my heart. It’s been a personal goal to get back here and coach and live in Boise. It’s a place I fell in love with and it’s important to love where you live and love where you work.”