Collin Miller’s done a lot of moving around in his Nebraska football career.
The junior enters his fourth spring in the program having played some defensive end, some outside linebacker, sub packages, special teams and inside linebacker.
It’s one thing to have multiple roles — the more time on the field the better, as far as Miller is concerned — but it’s another to be constantly learning a new spot.
Finally, it seems, he’s found a home in Barrett Ruud’s inside linebacker group.
Miller, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound native of Fishers, Indiana, made the move at the outset of fall camp last year. He played a little bit for Ruud, but asking him to get fully up to speed at a brand new spot was probably unrealistic.
“Outside you kind of get told a little bit what to do, so you have the safety telling you what to do, the inside linebacker telling you what to do,” Miller explained. “Inside linebacker you have to get the call, you have to make the call, you’ve got to tell the D-line the call, you have to tell the outside linebacker what he might have to do. You have to look back for the safety. There’s just a lot more things that go around the inside linebacker than it did for outside.
“The inside linebacker kind of runs the show on the defense. You’d kind of say they’re the quarterback of the defense.”
That’s just the start.
“Also the eye progression,” he said. “You’ve got to watch the guards, the center, the running back, the quarterback, wide receivers. … Having that last year under my (belt) and everything helped me a lot.”
It’s part of the reason Ruud is confident in his group despite the fact that, after senior stalwart Mohamed Barry, there’s Miller, who has yet to be a full-time player; fellow junior Will Honas, limited this spring as he continues to recover from October ACL surgery; some walk-ons; and a trio of freshmen in Nick Henrich, Jackson Hannah and Garrett Snodgrass.
“He’s really a talented guy,” Ruud said last month of Miller. “He just needs to play inside linebacker. … I have a lot of confidence that he’s going to be a good player.”
Miller’s rarely gone one year to the next with the luxury of retaining information and building from the past year. He earned some spot time in 2017 as a redshirt freshman, but then had a new coach to begin 2018. Then a new position. Now, he’s settled in and looking to make a move.
“Everyone’s looking at you and everyone’s like, ‘What’s the call? Hurry up,’” Miller said. “It’s fast. Our offense goes fast, so that means you have to get the call fast, you’ve got to make the call fast. You’ve got to project it loud enough, but also you’ve got to worry about your technique, everybody else’s technique and what they’re supposed to do. You could say I was swimming (last year) a little bit. Where I am now, I learned from it, I watched my mistakes from last year, I’m working on my mistakes that I did with my footwork.”
It won’t be easy for Miller to earn a full-time job. Honas should be approaching full strength by the time summer workouts begin. Henrich and the other young players are highly thought of. But the junior’s seen a lot and played extensively on special teams. Now, finally in one spot for the foreseeable future, he’s got perhaps his best chance yet of taking a big step.
“It’s going to be way better,” he said. “It’s a new year, but I feel like I’ve been doing this for a while.”