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Malik Miller a 'steady force'

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Malik Miller a 'steady force' in Auburn's running back competition

Updated 10:28 AM; Posted 10:30 AM

Auburn running back Malik Miller is one of five players competing for the Tigers' starting running back job this spring. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics) (Todd Van Emst)

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By Tom Green

tgreen@al.com

There's still another week to go before Auburn pares down its competition at running back from five to, likely, three -- but one of the Tigers' most senior running backs is making his case for the job.

Seemingly overlooked in the running back battle, redshirt sophomore Malik Miller has left a good impression on Auburn's coaches this spring as he tries to carve out a role in the Tigers' backfield this fall.

"I think he's kind of a steady force," offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said. "He's kind of a veteran now. I think he's continuing to improve."

While Miller is entering his third year in Auburn's offense, the 5-foot-11, 225-pounder has just 50 total carries over his first two seasons.

As a freshman in 2016, Miller 16 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown in three appearances before a knee injury brought his year to a premature end. After earning a medical redshirt in the offseason, Miller worked his way back onto the field in a limited role in 2017, carrying the ball 34 times for 135 yards and a touchdown while being, ostensibly, Auburn's fourth option at running back.

With Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway no longer in the mix after declaring early for the NFL Draft, Miller is now the Tigers' second-most experienced running back behind junior Kam Martin, who rushed for 453 yards on 74 carries last season.

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"Malik's a veteran guy," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "He knows the offense inside and out. Our expectations are very high for him. I know that coach (Tim) Horton and Coach Lindsey have been pleased so far."

 

Of Auburn's five options at running back this spring, Miller is the most prototypical between-the-tackles runner of the group, and he has the frame to support it. He's built more similarly to Pettway than to Johnson, with whom he shared the backfield in high school at Madison Academy while providing the Mustangs with a championship-caliber combination at running back.

Experience may be one thing that Miller has going for him in the Tigers' competition, but perhaps his best advantage to this point has been his proficiency in pass protection -- an area that both Malzahn and Lindsey have said will be crucial to determining Auburn's backfield recipe in 2018.

"I think Malik has gotten much better as far as pass protection," Lindsey said. "I think that's one of the things where I feel really confident in him in. He's a solid runner that obviously has been around a while, so I think any experience he's gotten is a benefit."

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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I'm pulling for Malik.  He was a special back in high school.  We will see what happens in the fall when the young guys get another 3 months of muscle gain.  

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51 minutes ago, corchjay said:

I'm pulling for Malik.  He was a special back in high school.  We will see what happens in the fall when the young guys get another 3 months of muscle gain.  

How good is his speed coach?

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4 hours ago, Eagle-1 said:

How good is his speed coach?

Average speed.  He won't be a 70 yard sprint kind of running back.  

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I've been watching this kid for a few seasons. He runs hard and rarely loses yardage, yet he could not get on the field. When we needed a strong back, we got KMart or a bummed up Kerryon. Was he just THAT bad in pass blocking?

I sincerely hope he gets a chance to shine this season. We need a big durable back to share the load.

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16 minutes ago, CCTAU said:

I've been watching this kid for a few seasons. He runs hard and rarely loses yardage, yet he could not get on the field. When we needed a strong back, we got KMart or a bummed up Kerryon. Was he just THAT bad in pass blocking?

I think you had 2 scenarios last year. Yes... he certainly had blocking issues. That was made evident when he saw the field primarily along side Willis, who could fend for himself if Miller whiffed, and by the fact that Chip highlighted that as an area of improvement. He was also still getting back to form from his injury last year. The people who have watched him most closely noticed that he seemed to have lost some burst, but word is that he's worked hard and gotten it back.

Hopefully he will be a force this year. 

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41 minutes ago, 17-16 said:

Ball security

I remember hearing that, now that you mention it. 

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Don't know this kid personally but I have watched him play for years.  When KJ left MA the RB spot did not drop a bit when he stepped in the role.  As someone already mentioned he has never been a burner but never loses a yard when he does get the ball.  He did lose a step last year compared to before.  Don't know if he bulked up and lost step or injury caused it.  Bottom line though, I believe last years lack of field appearance was more due to ball control as @17-16 said.  He lost a few his FR year and then in spring last year.  Hopefully this is all corrected and this kid can show what he has.

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1 hour ago, LKEEL75 said:

Don't know this kid personally but I have watched him play for years.  When KJ left MA the RB spot did not drop a bit when he stepped in the role.  As someone already mentioned he has never been a burner but never loses a yard when he does get the ball.  He did lose a step last year compared to before.  Don't know if he bulked up and lost step or injury caused it.  Bottom line though, I believe last years lack of field appearance was more due to ball control as @17-16 said.  He lost a few his FR year and then in spring last year.  Hopefully this is all corrected and this kid can show what he has.

I was told that Miller was the better of the two when we got him.

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22 hours ago, corchjay said:

Average speed.  He won't be a 70 yard sprint kind of running back.  

Thanks. I suspected as much, but wasn't sure. I was under the impression that he may have been slowed somewhat by leg injury. 

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He has never been considered as a "fast" or even a "quick" guy. His recruiting profile has him listed at 4.76 speed in high school before injury. 

I know 40 times don't equate to football speed, but that isn't world class speed we are talking about there. 

That would be great for an OL or DL, but as a RB, that isn't SEC RB1 speed. 

I love MM. He is an auburn man through and through, but that doesn't mean we can't point out obvious deficiencies in his game... and speed is a deficiency. 

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He very well could turn out to be a 1000 yard back and one like Pettway in 2016 where he came out of nowhere to be an all SEC back.

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He is not any slower than rudi Johnson. No idea how he turns out but the three games I saw MA play in High school Miller had as many or more carries as kJ. Kj got more wildcat and sweeps. MM ran more from the backfield. 

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Miller plays hard and has given his all.  But if he is our starting RB in the fall then we have definite coaching issues at the RB position.

wde

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On 4/3/2018 at 10:55 AM, CCTAU said:

I've been watching this kid for a few seasons. He runs hard and rarely loses yardage, yet he could not get on the field. When we needed a strong back, we got KMart or a bummed up Kerryon. Was he just THAT bad in pass blocking?

I sincerely hope he gets a chance to shine this season. We need a big durable back to share the load.

Didn't he have issues leaving the ball on the ground?  Or am I mistaken?

I'm with you:  I hope he comes along and makes us forget Kerryon quickly.

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1 minute ago, AUIH1 said:

Miller plays hard and has given his all.  But if he is our starting RB in the fall then we have definite coaching issues at the RB position.

wde

That would be a stretch to say the least.  MM has the potential to be a very good RB.  He is prototypical of what CCL & CGM like in their RB.  He is a shorter version of KP.  He has experience and the coaches did trust him at one point before he got injured.  I think to make it sound like he is the lowest RB on this totem pole is a stretch.

But hey, that is great thing about opinions...  We can all have them.

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3 hours ago, LKEEL75 said:

That would be a stretch to say the least.  MM has the potential to be a very good RB.  He is prototypical of what CCL & CGM like in their RB.  He is a shorter version of KP.  He has experience and the coaches did trust him at one point before he got injured.  I think to make it sound like he is the lowest RB on this totem pole is a stretch.

But hey, that is great thing about opinions...  We can all have them.

He probably is not the lowest RB on the AU RB totem pole based on Gus' mind set.  But to even suggest that he can put us in the SECCG is basing that suggestion on pure faith.

wde

Edited by TitanTiger
removed insult

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3 hours ago, AUIH1 said:

He probably is not the lowest RB on the AU RB totem pole based on Gus' mind set.  But to even suggest that he can put us in the SECCG is basing that suggestion on pure faith.

wde

No. It is based on fact.  If he wins the job at RB then CGM & CCL must believe he is the best we have.  And you can say what you want about CGM but the man has gotten the most out of his RBs since being at AU.

Edited by TitanTiger

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7 minutes ago, LKEEL75 said:

No. It is based on fact.  If he wins the job at RB then CGM & CCL must believe he is the best we have.  And you can say what you want about CGM but the man has gotten the most out of his RBs since being at AU.

LMAO.  You trust Gus? 

 

wde

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39 minutes ago, AUIH1 said:

LMAO.  You trust Gus? 

 

wde

When it comes to picking a RB...  Yeah.  Again there are a lot of things to question about his tenure are AU, but getting production from at RB is not one of those questions.

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1 hour ago, AUIH1 said:

Miller plays hard and has given his all.  But if he is our starting RB in the fall then we have definite coaching issues at the RB position.

wde

I'm sorry, are we talking about the same RB?

I see a running back that hasn't shown ANYTHING when he has gotten a chance to play. 

He looks like he should be a strong runner, but I don't see it. I see him get 2-3 yards, doesn't break many tackles, doesn;t have great vision between the tackles, and he will try to run sideways to get away, instead of putting his pads north/south and plowing for another 2-3 yards.

At A-Day, now compare WHitlow's hard running style, and ability to cut and get more yards. Yes, he is raw, but if he can block and understand the play calling for his position, he will be the only difference maker at RB.

Miller needs to turn it on soon, or he will be the 3rd or 4th RB. 

 

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24 minutes ago, LKEEL75 said:

When it comes to picking a RB...  Yeah.  Again there are a lot of things to question about his tenure are AU, but getting production from at RB is not one of those questions.

LOL, that is more on the RB coach than Gus.

 

wde

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