Chris Miller could have big impact on CU Buffs defense

Oft-injured junior learning play several positions in Colorado secondary

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado junior Chris Miller has played cornerback for the Buffs. This offseason, he’s also learning safety and the star position.

When healthy, Chris Miller has been arguably the best cornerback at Colorado the past two seasons.

CU coaches are hoping he can be more than that.

A 6-foot, 190-pound junior, Miller could be wind up being one of the most versatile and impactful players on the Buffaloes’ defense next season.

“We were doing a Zoom donor meeting a couple weeks ago,” defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said, “and one of the questions that was asked was, ‘Who do you feel is going to be a player that really jumps out this season?’ And (Miller) was one of the first names that I mentioned in that group.”

A cornerback since he arrived in Boulder from Denton, Texas, in the summer of 2017, Miller was listed as the starting strong safety in a recent “pencil” depth chart released by CU. He is also a candidate to play in CU’s “star” position, a defensive back/linebacker hybrid.

“We feel that he’s a unique player that can do a lot of things,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “We want him in multiple roles and he’s embraced that challenge. But it’s just a matter of getting him in those positions to see if he can handle all that information. We do plan on him being a big factor.”

For Miller to be a big factor, he has to be healthy, and that’s been his biggest challenge. He has played in only 10 games at CU, with his 2018 season cut short because of a fractured thumb and his 2019 season limited to four games because of a torn ACL. He also missed spring practices in 2019 with a dislocated shoulder.

“Physically I’m feeling good,” Miller said last week. “I’ve been working really hard trying to get back as healthy as I can. I’m trying to be ready and have a great year and show the NFL scouts that I can be a great player and I will be.

“That’s all I’ve been doing is working on my health. I go to a chiropractor every week; I’m doing cryotherapy every single day; I’m doing everything I can with stretching, working out, trying to be better player.”

While Dorrell, who was hired in February, has yet to get on the field with Miller, Summers is familiar with his game after spending last season with the Buffs. He sees great potential in Miller, who also played receiver in high school, in addition to playing basketball and participating in track and field.

John McCoy / Getty Images North America
Defensive back Chris Miller, right, has played in only 10 games the past two seasons because of injuries.

“I think that Chris is a guy that’s very talented,” Summers said. “One, he has size. He’s got a lot of God-given ability and his ability to move and run. And, he’s in year two in the system. What you’re seeing from him is a tremendous amount of growth and maturity, in my opinion, over the last six to eight months.

“I can pull up my phone where  he literally texts me every day about what he can do to get better: ‘Where is this film, where is that film? What do I need to focus on today?’ His ability gives him the versatility really to play a safety position, to play a star position, and obviously he could go play corner, which is what he’s done in the past.”

Summers said Miller is a product of the impact Davion Taylor had on the CU program. A junior college recruit who spent just two seasons in Boulder, Taylor developed his raw talent at CU and become an NFL player, drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia Eagles in April.

“You’re seeing the trickle-down effect with a lot of our players now, particularly on defense,” Summers said. “They saw Davion putting in the extra hour, two hours every day of film study. They saw that Davion was on the phone with me four times a day at any point in time. I think that he’s a great example of guys that you see right now that are taking the time to learn the system the way that it really needs to be able to be taught.

“I think you’re going to see some great things out of Chris this year.”

Miller hopes that’s the case and said he often talks with safeties Derrion Rakestraw and Isaiah Lewis to pick up as much as he can about the position.

“I’m just trying to be a constant learner when it comes to the game of football,” he said. “My consistency is going to pay off at some point. I’m going to keep being consistent with it until it pays off and I know it will.

“I’m just trying to do everything I can to be that pro type of player and let (scouts) know I’m here. If I stay healthy, they’ll see.”