Nebraska finished the month of July with a bang on the recruiting trail, landing Baton Rouge, La., fullback Ben Miles. Miles, the son of LSU head coach Les Miles, fills Nebraska’s fullback spot in the 2017 class while also ending a month-long dry spell for Nebraska. As a junior, Miles helped lead Baton Rouge Catholic to a 10-3 record and a Louisiana Division I state championship.
Who Else Was Interested?
Miles currently has seven FBS offers, including tenders from Michigan State, Boston College and Navy. While all of those schoos made significant runs at the talented Miles, Nebraska’s chief competition was an offer from Miles’ hometown LSU Tigers. Nebraska won against LSU and poppa Les due partially to LSU already holding a fullback commit in the 2017 class, but also because Danny Langsdorf’s offense is a better fit for Miles’ athletic skill set.
Miles measures in at 6-1 and 215 pounds. At first glance, he looks more like a big running back than a traditional battering-ram fullback. Miles does have room to fill out in his upper body, as I could see him adding 10 or 15 pounds by the time he is finished maturing. Miles will be a definite redshirt however, as you don’t see many 215 pound fullbacks playing in the Big Ten.
1. His versatility. Miles lines up everywhere for his high school, whether it’s at running back, split out at wide receiver, at fullback or even as a wing tight end. He excels at each of those spots, demonstrating a high football IQ to go along with his considerable athletic talents. As Nebraska showed with Andy Janovich in 2015, it is willing to get creative with its fullback if he is athletic enough to handle it. Miles fits the Janovich mold to as a multi-faceted weapon in Nebraska’s offense and not just a run blocker.
2. His short-yardage running ability. Miles is a tough player to tackle when he has the football, as he runs with a very low center of gravity and fantastic power. Miles also understands his role as a runner, as he doesn’t dance around in the backfield trying to make a big play, instead he gets north and south and churns out positive yardage to keep the chains moving.
3. His receiving ability. Not only does Miles show soft hands as a receiver, but he may be one of the more polished route runners that Nebraska has ever gotten in the backfield. Miles is already adept at executing screens, as he does a tremendous job of sucking defensive linemen in before slipping free into open space. Miles also is a surprisingly effective receiver out wide, as he runs crisp routes and understands how to gain and keep separation from opposing defenders. Miles ability to consistently get open in the passing game means that he could project well in a superback role, similar to what Northwestern did with Dan Vitale the past few years.
4. His technique as a blocker. Miles is not only polished as a pass receiver, but also as a pass blocker, as he keeps a wide base when pass blocking and shows good hand use when taking on pass rushers. In the run game, Miles shows solid hand placement and good drive to consistently outwork the opposing defender and drive them out of the way. Ninety percent of the time fullbacks are blockers, so it is good to see that Miles has the technique down pretty well.
1. His size. This is my biggest concern with Miles at this point, as he just isn’t big enough to be a quality fullback in the Big Ten yet. I believe Miles will need to add at least 15 pounds of muscle to his frame before he is able to truly challenge for consisting playing time in Nebraska’s offense. Miles has the frame to get up to 230 pounds, and focusing purely on football and not cutting weight for wrestling, a sport Miles’ competes in at Baton Rouge Catholic, should allow him to get there.
2. His “pop” as a run blocker. Miles is a very fundamentally sound blocker, as he gets in good position and uses his hands well. One thing that he hasn’t shown yet is the explosive power to consistently knock opposing defenders off of their base. If Miles is unable to add that explosive “pop” in the run game, it will limit his effectiveness in Nebraska’s inside zone and power packages, both of which are expected to be big parts of Nebraska’s offense going forward. This should be a relatively easy flaw to fix, as Miles has the fundamentals down and will only get stronger as his body matures physically.
3. Finding his niche in Nebraska’s offense. This isn’t a flaw as much as it is an unanswered question. Miles can do a lot of things on offense, and that versatility can make him a real asset to Nebraska’s offense. On the flip side, if Nebraska is unable to find a way to consistently feature him in ways that take advantage of his skills it will all be for naught. Miles has the skills to be a bigger, faster and stronger version of Vitale, and I believe that Nebraska should really consider taking a page out of Pat Fitzgerald’s book and bring the “superback” position down to Lincoln.
While fullback isn’t normally a position that Nebraska spends a scholarship on, Miles was just too good of a prospect to pass up. He will definitely need a redshirt season to add some weight and find his niche in Nebraska’s offense, but he could see the field as soon as his redshirt freshman year. Miles is the most unique fullback prospect Nebraska has landed in recent memory and, if Nebraska can figure out how to use him, he could become the most productive as well.
College Comparison: Faster version of former Northwestern superback Dan Vitale.
Pro Comparison: Smaller version of former Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis