ACC Week of our 49 in 49 pre-draft series continues with a profile of speedy Miami (FL) running back Lamar Miller.
Lamar Miller and
The University of Miami has been something of an NFL factory in recent years. Scores of players have moved on from the Coral Gables, Fla., campus to the pro ranks and become some of the game’s best. Though he still had two years of NCAA eligibility left, Miller is ready to keep his school’s rich tradition of NFL success alive.
“That’s our main goal, keep the legacy going,” Miller said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We haven’t had a first-round pick in a long time and we’re trying to break that streak.”
Indeed, the Hurricanes haven’t had a first-round pick since 2008, when safety Kenny Phillips was selected by the New York Giants with the 31st pick. For most schools, a three-year drought isn’t that long.
But Miami isn’t like most schools.
NFL rosters and Pro Bowl rosters alike have been littered with former Hurricanes – players like Gore, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Jimmy Graham. The running back position has been especially strong with Miami alumni, as backs like Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis and Gore have all gone on to play in the Pro Bowl.
As Miller ventures into the uncharted NFL waters, he said he’s been leaning on Gore, the 49ers all-time leading rusher, for support.
“I used to hang out with his little cousin so we have a great relationship,” Miller said. “I talked to him before we came up (to the combine) and he was telling me positive things. I watch some of his games when I have a chance to. He’s a great runner. He’s physical, runs hard, and he has the mentality that he’s the best player on the field.”
Miller broke out with a big sophomore season in 2011, rattling off five straight 100-yard games before finishing the year with 1,272 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns.
Style-wise, Miller said he compares favorably to Portis, with their shifty open-field moves and breakneck speed. Miller, who measured at 5-foot-11, 212 pounds at the combine, officially clocked in with a 4.40-second time in the 40-yard dash, tops among running backs.
Though Alabama’s Trent Richardson is the consensus pick to be the first tailback taken off the board, Miller is jockeying to be the second back drafted, competing with others like Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Boise State’s Doug Martin.
“I’m much faster (than Richardson) and I’ve got great vision,” Miller said. “Trent Richardson is a great running back. He’s more of a power back than I am, but I feel that my speed is the difference.”
Most mock drafts have Miller pegged as a second-round pick, but he’s not so convinced.
“I feel that I have the talent and the ability to be a first round running back and be one of the running backs who has the ability to make it to the Hall of Fame,” Miller said.
How’s that for confidence?
As proud as Miller is, he knows he still has plenty of work cut out for him. Miller’s job description will change in the NFL, as he will also be called on for blitz pickups and pass protection more than he was in Miami. Gore is one the best running backs in the game at blocking in the backfield and could provide insight.
“Going to the next level I’m going to be facing bigger and faster opponents so I’m going to have to work on getting stronger and faster,” Miller said. “My blocking, I feel like that’s something I have to work on, being more aggressive and physical on pass (protection).”
Miller stood on his 40 time from the combine but reportedly improved his vertical leap to 35 ½ inches and performed well in position drills, where he tried show off his soft hands. Miller only had 28 catches in his college career, but sounds confident in his abilities to be a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Another thing Miller showed during his sophomore season was toughness. Despite suffering a left shoulder injury in the third game of the year, he wrapped it up with four more 100-yard performances. Miller said he had surgery in December and that he’s been busy rehabbing it since.
Despite the setback, Miller is set on joining the pro ranks.
“My family and I felt it was the best decision,” Miller said. “I just want to take my talents to the next level and live a dream. I felt like I played good enough to put myself in a good predicament.”