Before he had NFL general managers altering their draft boards, Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller had Big 12 offensive coordinators scuttling their game plans.
Take, for example, the University of Kansas’ Chuck Long, who said no player changed the dynamics of the Jayhawks’ offense quite like the 6-foot-2, 237-pound Miller.
Miller, by many accounts, has been the star of the Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Ala. And the Butkus Award winner figures to be moving up draft boards as a result. The 49ers, in desperate need of a pass-rushing outside linebacker for their 3-4 defense, surely have Miller among the candidates to select with the No. 7 overall pick, if he’s available.
Since switching to the 3-4 in 2005, San Francisco has had an outside linebacker post more than seven sacks in a season just once. Long says Miller, who led the nation with 17 sacks in 2009, has skills that will translate well to the pros.
“He is going to be a really good pass-rusher in the NFL,” said Long, a former quarterback who was the 1985 Heisman Trophy runner-up and spent five seasons in the NFL. “I’ll put it to you this way: He’s the only guy we played against this year where we had to do something about him. In other words, we didn’t really get concerned about anyone else that we played … My point is, when we watched tape, we said, ‘Whoa.’ He was the only guy all year we felt going into the game, we better do something about this individual. Instead of attacking schemes, we had to attack that individual because he did change your game plan.”
Miller was held without a sack and had four tackles in Texas A&M’s 45-10 win over Kansas this past season. And Long said that’s because the Jayhawks constantly double-teamed him with a tackle and a running back. The Jayhawks routinely sent out just three receivers in an effort to neutralize Miller, who had 17.5 tackles for a loss as a senior.
“He was fast off the edge, had a great first step and he had a couple different moves,” Long said. “Man, because he could get to the edge so fast — and he had the inside move as well — that made him all that more dangerous. Plus, he hustled all over the field. You always watch and see that. I think you have really great players when they hustle from the back side. And he was just as dangerous on the backside chasing the ball.”
Long also pored over plenty of film of Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, who was part of a defense which allowed 15 passing yards in 20-3 win over the Jayhawks this past season. Amukamara, like Miller, is viewed as a high-end, first-round pick and San Francisco is a logical landing spot.
Part of it certainly has to do with Amukamara’s position – cornerbacks can be avoided much easier than pass-rushers such as Miller – but Long wasn’t quite as enamored with the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
“They have a great scheme there,” Long said. “And they played a lot of man, so when you play a lot of man, obviously you’ve got a lot of confidence in your corners. But they would wrap guys over the top to protect him a little bit. I don’t know how much he stood out to us. But I think he’s a good football player. He didn’t stand out as much as Von Miller did at his position, but he can play.”