Outside linebacker could be Alabama's notable void; Christian Miller seeks to make it strength

Outside linebacker could be Alabama's notable void; Christian Miller seeks to make it strength

April 20th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama outside linebacker Christian Miller, left, played in all 15 games last season, collecting 16 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Photo by Amelia B. Barton

Alabama's defense returns starting experience up front, at inside linebacker, at cornerback and at safety.

Outside linebacker is the one area with a notable void, and Christian Miller knows it's his time to produce. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound redshirt junior is now the veteran of a group that has to fill the vacancy left by the NFL-bound tandem of Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams.

"The athleticism is there," Miller said. "We just need to get more leadership, and that comes from older guys like me. I haven't had to say too much because I've been more of a younger guy the last two years, but now I want to step up and lead the younger guys."

Alabama will hold its 14th spring practice this afternoon and conclude spring drills Saturday afternoon with the A-Day game, which will be televised by ESPN at 3 p.m. EDT.

Miller played in all 15 games last season, tallying 16 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Like many Crimson Tide players before him, he has battled the daily grind and waited his turn for the chance to start.

"It's what I expected," he said. "You come in and compete and work the best you can, and that's what I've done. It's starting to pay off now."

Miller signed in 2014 out of Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., as the nation's No. 39 overall prospect according to 247Sports.com. He enrolled as a 205-pounder with the ability to perform back flips and insists he still performs them with his bigger frame.

Just not in practices in front of coach Nick Saban.

"I'm a lot stronger now and a lot more confident, especially in the run game," Miller said. "I feel more explosive now, and the weight hasn't affected me at all. I'm probably faster as well."

Said Saban: "The thing we've always tried to do is get him strong enough that he can go out there and sustain playing at the point. He's made an improvement in that area."

Anderson and Williams combined for a whopping 35 tackles for loss and 18 sacks for a defense viewed as arguably the best in program history until Clemson scored 21 fourth-quarter points in January's national championship game. Redshirt sophomore Anfernee Jennings and sophomore Terrell Hall also are competing for the two starting spots at outside linebacker.

Miller believes the lost-yardage totals this season could be more spread out.

"It could be a number of guys," he said. "Whoever can get in and make a play will be the guy who's playing. Could it be me? I have confidence in myself, but it's like Coach Saban tells us, it's not always about making sacks.

"Sometimes you just have to affect the quarterback, and that's what we're trying to do."

Miller has been working this spring at strongside linebacker, which is where Anderson played last season.

"It fits my game," Miller said. "I can cover tight ends. I can drop. I can play the edge. It's what I do."

In the money

New Alabama offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will have an annual salary of $1.2 million, the Tuscaloosa News reported Wednesday. Lane Kiffin made $1.4 million last season as the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator, and Steve Sarkisian was scheduled to make $1 million before leaving in February to become offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.