Earlier this week, 247 sports reported that the USC Trojans picked up their ninth commit of the 2017 class in the form of Georgia safety C.J. Miller. Miller is another under the radar prospect for the men of Troy, but one that should be a late riser in recruiting rankings as his tremendous athleticism is beginning to pick up national attention. It is also not a coincidence that Miller currently attends McEachern high school—the same school former five-star prospect and current Trojan sophomore Chuma Edoga attended. Georgia has lately become a nice pipeline for SC as Edoga, E.J. Price, and Josh Imatorbhebhe have all made their way to Southern California in the past two cycles. Miller is far less heralded on national recruiting sites than those three players, but Miller possesses a tremendous upside that may be going unnoticed.
According to 247 sports, Miller is rated as the Trojans’ lowest ranked commit in the 2017 class as a three star with an overall rating of 84 and 82.55 in the composite. However, rumors have stated that the only reason why Miller is rated so low is because he has not attended many recruiting camps, greatly impacting his exposure among top tier schools in the south. Recently, USC defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford was able to see Miller at a camp where he clocked a 4.38 forty yard dash. Miller also has a 37 inch vertical, and at 6’1” 195 lbs., Miller’s tremendous athleticism is obvious. These impressive measurables were likely a key reason why USC ultimately chose to offer the young safety. Miller’s athleticism is something that cannot be taught, but he is still a raw prospect that will need significant development in order to be a contributor for the Trojans.
Miller is far from the perfect prospect and has a long way to go towards earning playing time in Troy, especially in the secondary. After analyzing Miller’s tape, it is obvious that he is going to need a lot of work in coverage. Miller does not appear to display great anticipation, often times looking to lay the big hit because he does not read the play well enough to make a play on the ball. He looks very unconfident turning his hips and running, a key part of being a safety. Miller’s coverage skills will need a lot of work before he can play in the secondary, especially with all of the air-raid offenses in the Pac-12. The McEachern product has the raw athleticism to be very effective in pass coverage, but this area will need a lot of work before he sees extensive time at safety.
Miller’s best attribute is his physicality. Miller loves to participate in the run game where he is not afraid to be extremely physical at the line of scrimmage. Most of the time he chooses to stay on the second level due to his lack of size against big offensive lineman, but once he gets his arms around the runner, it is very rare that the runner is able to go much further. Miller shows the ability to read running plays and get himself in good position with a low center of gravity to take down ball carriers without getting dragged for additional yardage. His speed combined with his tendency to deliver monster hits suits him perfectly for special teams.
Miller matches up much better against the smaller blockers in kickoff coverage. He is able to easily run by and outmuscle these smaller blockers, leading to a number of nice plays in the third phase of the game. Early in his career at USC, special teams will likely be the area where Miller can contribute the most. As of now, Miller is much more of a linebacker than a safety in that he looks very unconfident in coverage, but excels in defending the run. Unfortunately, he is way too small to be a linebacker at 195 lbs. Plus, his frame does look big enough to handle significant weight gain, suggesting that he will need to put in a lot of work on his coverage skills if he wants to be a prominent member of the Trojans’ secondary.
As a result, it will likely be a few years before SC fans see Miller on the field in a capacity other than special teams. His speed and tackling can be very important attributes if he is able to develop his coverage skills, but until then, Miller will be far too much of a liability on the back end of the secondary to merit much playing time on defense. Miller is very raw right now, but with good coaching and a few years on the scout team working on his coverage skills, he has the potential to be a very good safety. The physical traits are all there, but the finer aspects of being a good all-around football player will need to be developed. In the past few years, USC has shown an inability to develop these types of players into the types of under the radar studs that Pete Carroll was able to create. If this does not change, it is highly unlikely Miller will ever see the field much on defense. However, if Miller does receive adequate coaching, he has the upside to be a fantastic all-around safety that can be dominant against both the run and pass. Hopefully, Coach Bradford is able to bring the best out of his talented new commit.