Sometimes, glory just doesn’t happen on the expected timescale. For Alabama’s Christian Miller, it sure didn’t. But through hard work, perfectionism, and perseverence, he became one of the best defenders in college football and projected to go in the first day or two of the NFL draft.
Once the #40 overall prospect in the nation (and a 5-star by one recruiting service), Miller is one of the few players out of the state of South Carolina to head down to Tuscaloosa. He was an exceptional athlete, blowing up all the test results at Nike’s SPARQ combines while simultaneously blowing up offensive tackles as he shot past them for more shots at the QB.
Coming to campus at only 220 pounds despite being a defensive end/linebacker hybrid, he took a redshirt his freshman year to bulk up some to his weight of about 240, which he maintained for the rest of his time at Alabama. In 2015 and 2016, he was well entrenched behind guys like Ryan Anderson, Rashaan Evans, Denzell Devall, and Tim Williams. He barely saw any time in 2015, but became a regular as a backup in 2016, as well as a significant player on special teams. He wound up with 16 tackles and a pair of sacks. He flashed the quick twitch pass rushing ability that fans had seen during the previous two A-day scrimmages, and left us excited for him to finally have the chance to be a full-time starter in 2017.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well. He tore his bicep early in the season opener against Florida State, and didn’t return to the field until the Auburn game at the end of the season. He got some very limited playing time in the final three games of the Tide’s championship season, but was playing on a pitch count and still obviously hampered by rust. Despite that, he did have a timely sack in the championship game against Georgia.
In 2018, his redshirt senior year, he finally had his chance. Though he didn’t wind up being the force of nature and superstar that we had hoped, he was definitely the Tide’s most consistent linebacker— showing his adeptness at rushing the passer as well as in pass coverage and run stopping. He racked up 36 tackles and 8.5 sacks, second only to Isaiah Buggs in that category. Unfortunately, he had a significant hamstring pull in the semifinal game against Oklahoma and had to sit out the championship loss to Clemson.
At times, he flashed the ability and explosiveness around the edge to have the talking heads projecting him as a 1st round draft pick, and at others he disappeared long enough for them to forget about him.
Ultimately, Miller is a player who worked tirelessly while being groomed behind a group of elite pass rushers before having his first chance at superstardom cut short by injury. In his final year, he was tasked with being the senior member of the defense despite it really being his first year as a starter all while figuring out an entirely new defensive coaching staff. And then had it all cut short again one game before the finale.
Despite that, he was still one of Alabama’s best defenders throughout the course of the season and flashed enough to have the NFL scouts very, very interested. He overcame a lot and stuck with everything to get to where he got, and I have no doubt that experience will serve him well not just in the pros, but in his life after that.
Roll Tide, Christian.