Collin Miller has been a man of many positions during his young career at Nebraska.
Miller was named scout team defensive MVP as a pass-rushing defensive end during his redshirt season in 2016, then moved to outside linebacker in 2017 as Nebraska transitioned to a 3-4 defense. He bounced back and forth between outside and inside linebacker in practice, but contributed mostly on special teams early in the season.
However, with injuries hitting the outside linebacker position, Miller saw the field at that spot and recorded eight of his 11 total tackles on defense over the final four games of the season.
Miller spent spring ball on the edge, but now he is back at inside linebacker and it looks like he is there to stay.
“He was a guy that started outside and looked good doing that,” inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said. “On the move to the middle, it’s been pretty seamless, really. Now it’s just a matter of detailing his assignments because there are some intricate ways we do things in the run game and the pass game, some keys, but he’s really done well. He’s had a really good camp and he’s going to play a lot of football.”
Though he has bounced around so much, Miller said it hasn’t been too difficult to learn and grow and establish himself in Lincoln.
“I think the coaches have done a really good job of helping me in the meeting rooms,” Miller said. “The older guys have been helping me with film and just trying to understand, like, ‘OK, you’ve got this gap on this play, you have this read on this play.’ So honestly, it’s not too bad when you have this many people trying to help you out every single day.”
The initial transition took a bit of time from a mental standpoint as he had to recondition his brain to the different calls and responsibilities, but things are flowing pretty well for him at this point with just under two weeks left before the season opener.
“When I first started, I was thinking a lot,” Miller said. “I had some outside type of concepts running through my head, but as you go more and more through practice during the fall, it sounds kind of easy. It’s becoming more of a habit.”
When the coaches went to Miller to talk about switching positions once again, he jumped on the opportunity right away.
“He didn’t even blink,” Ruud said. “Obviously, he wanted to know 'Is this temporary or is it permanent?’ He’s been awesome, man. He wants to help the team in whatever way he can. He’s probably going to be a core-four special teams guy for us too. He’s as versatile a guy as we have on our defense, I think, and he’s going to be a big, big part of what we’re doing this fall.”
The depth the Huskers have built up on the edge compared to the interior made the move a little easier for Miller.
“I think we’ve got pretty good depth at outside: Luke [Gifford], Ace [Alex Davis], Ferg [Tyrin Ferguson], Breon [Dixon], everybody like that, so we’re pretty stacked there at outside. Inside, we’ve got Mo [Barry], Will [Honas], Dedrick [Young], so I think I can just help any way,” Miller said. “Play inside if they need me to, outside if they need me to, so I’m just ready to contribute in any way.”
At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Miller offers a different type of body at that spot compared to Young (6-foot-1, 245 pounds), Honas (6-foot-1, 235 pounds) and Barry (6-foot-1, 230 pounds).
“He’s probably got a little bit more size, a little bit more natural explosion,” Ruud said. “As far as taking on linemen, he excels at that. His movement in space is really fluid, too. He’s a good football player and he’s shown he can play outside in the spring and now he’s proving he can play inside this fall. There are not many guys on the team that can do that.”
Miller brings a different skill set to the position as well with more of a pass-rushing background, something that could be a valuable weapon for defensive cooridnater Erik Chinander to have at the center of his defense.
“Coach Ruud does a good job of working pass rush on the guards or the running backs,” Miller said. “We work that every day. Coming from the outside where we work pass rush every single day, every minute of the day against the tackles, and then taking that to the guards, it’s not anything different to me.”
Overall, Miller said his versatility is his greatest strength, and he’s excited about what he can bring to Chinander’s defense.
“I think Coach Chin’s defense, he does a very, very good job of just trying to get 11 hats to the ball,” Miller said. “As soon as you get 11, anybody that can just run fast and is willing to hit, you’re going to play in this defense. It’s a real fun defense to play in; I love it.”
With each passing day, the picture at linebacker is coming more and more into focus, and it appears as if Collin Miller is going to be in that picture when the season arrives.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.