Through the first three days of preseason football camp, Colorado’s Chris Miller has had to knock off a bit of rust.
After the year he’s had, however, he’ll take it.
“It’s good to be on the field for the first time in basically almost a year,” the CU sophomore said last week. “It feels pretty good.”
Miller, from Denton, Tex., is arguably CU’s most talented cornerback and, if healthy, could give the Buffaloes a huge boost in the secondary.
Yet, in the past 12 months, Miller has dealt with a hamstring injury, a fractured thumb and a dislocated shoulder. The first two injuries led to him missing six games of the 2018 season. The shoulder injury forced him to sit out of spring practices this year.
Finally, he’s healthy.
“Way healthier than I have been in the past,” Miller said last week. “It’s a lot to overcome, but I’m just looking forward to playing football and getting better with my team.”
The Buffs need Miller to be healthy, not only because he’s talented, but because they don’t have many bodies at cornerback. He’s one of only five scholarship corners on the roster and two of them – DJ Oats and KJ Trujillo – are true freshmen.
Senior Delrick Abrams Jr., and junior Mekhi Blackmon are the other veterans and they have been playing with the first unit. They’ve earned it after playing well in the spring. But Miller is already making an impression on first-year head coach Mel Tucker and defensive coordinator Tyson Summers.
“He’s got a really good skill set,” Tucker said. “He’s got length, he’s got really good change of direction and balance and body control; he’s got good ball skills. (Thursday) was my first look at him and I was impressed with what he can do. I think he’s got good upside for us this season. I’m looking forward to working with him more.”
So is Summers, who said Miller “may be as talented as anybody on our football team.”
Summers praised Miller for the work he’s done to get healthy. Summers also acknowledged it’s only been three days of practice, but said Miller “has had a really good three days.”
Before the hamstring injury during fall camp last year, Miller may have been CU’s best corner. He was then rounding in form and worked his way into the starting lineup before his thumb injury on Oct. 20 at Washington.
Miller is now spending more time in the training room to take care of his body and hopefully stay healthy, and he’s hoping to pick up where he left off, if not get better.
“I’m always sure I can get better,” he said.
Although he didn’t participate in spring, Miller said he took advantage of the time by studying the playbook and learning Summers’ defense.
“(I’ve) got a good grasp of it,” he said. “I didn’t feel behind on the plays at all (last week). It’s just getting back up to game speed. I haven’t played in a minute.”
While the cornerback group is small, Miller said there is great competition, especially among the three veterans – Abrams, Blackmon and Miller.
“You always have to reprove yourself,” he said of regaining the starting job he had a year ago. “I’ve been out a long time, so I don’t expect anybody to give me any favors. I want to earn mine just like anybody else.”
With Miller back on the field, Summers said the cornerback group is “very talented.”
“I really like the group,” he said. “We just don’t have the depth or experience that you’d like to have going into a year.”
Despite that, Miller is excited to join what he believes will be a solid unit.
“I feel like we’re a group that we’re going to hold our own,” he said. “I feel like we have something to prove this year and we’ll be able to do it.”