PREP FOOTBALL | MR. FOOTBALL

Spring Valley’s Miller looks to claim Mr. Football title

ainelson@thestate.comDecember 13, 2013 

Spring Valley linebacker Christian Miller looks to add South Carolina's Mr. Football award to his trophy shelf.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com

  • MR. FOOTBALL CANDIDATES The winner will be announced Saturday at halftime of the North-South All-Star game in Myrtle Beach.

    CHRISTIAN MILLER

    Spring Valley LB

    Alabama commitment

    JAE’LON OGLESBY

    Daniel RB

    Clemson commitment

    JACOB PARK

    Stratford QB

    Georgia commitment

    MASON RUDOLPH

    Northwestern QB

    Oklahoma State

    commitment

    DONELL STANLEY

    Latta OL

    USC commitment

  • S.C. Mr. Football Finalists

    LB Christian Miller, Spring Valley: Under Armour All-American and Shrine Bowl selection, Miller helped the Vikings to a 12-1 finish with 188 tackles, 25 for loss, and 24 sacks in his senior season. Miller is the No. 1 ranked outside linebacker in the nation.

    RB Jae’lon Oglesby, Daniel: In the Class 3A championship game, the Clemson commitment rushed for 173 yards and a TD. He averaged 9.7 yards per carry, and the 6-foot, 175-pound back has a four-star rating from Rivals.com. He also plays corner.

    QB Jacob Park, Stratford: Future Georgia Bulldog powered the Knights to the Class 4A Division II title game, where he threw for 325 yards and four TDs. Rated No. 94 on the ESPN 300, he completed the season with 3,665 yards and 33 TDs.

    QB Mason Rudolph, Northwestern: The Oklahoma State-bound QB led his team to the Class 4A Division II crown, throwing for 483 yards and a state finals record eight TDs. He finished his senior season with 3,889 yards and 56 TDs.

    OL Donell Stanley, Latta: The 6-5, 320-pound guard is a Rivals.com four-star prospect who earned attention for his athleticism. The three-sport athlete committed to South Carolina in October and was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl.

    Akilah Imani Nelson

While Christian Miller tends to be focused on team accomplishments, individual honors have piled up for the Spring Valley linebacker this year.

The Vikings senior, who was selected for the Shrine Bowl but will miss it due to surgery, may add South Carolina’s Mr. Football to his list of accolades. The annual award will be presented in a ceremony at halftime of the North-South All-Star game on Saturday in Myrtle Beach.

In October, Miller was announced as one of five candidates for the award — along with Mason Rudolph of Northwestern, Jacob Park of Stratford, Donnell Stanley of Latta and Jae’lon Oglesby of Daniel. He later said he was honored to be mentioned in a discussion of the state’s top athletes.

It would be an even greater honor to win. Miller would be the first linebacker — and sixth defensive player — to win the award.

“I think he has the glamour stats, when it comes to stats that a defensive player would need to overcome that kind of stats that quarterbacks would have,” Vikings linebackers coach Mike Harrell said.

Miller has had a superlative season to cap his career at Spring Valley. He set school sacks records with 24 on the year and 38 in his career. As a junior, he posted 121 tackles, 14 sacks (then the record), four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

The Alabama commitment will participate in the Under Armour All-American game in January.

He is the nation’s No. 61 prospect and the No. 1 outside linebacker, according to ESPN. Last month, he was a semifinalist for the national Butkus Award for high school linebackers.

“He’s by far the best defensive player that’s been there in the eight years I’ve been there, and he probably ranks right up there with the best Spring Valley has produced,” Harrell said. “Being named South Carolina Mr. Football would be the icing on the cake.”

Miller’s father, former Gamecock and NFL star linebacker Corey Miller said his son has credentials worthy of the honor.

“When you look at his numbers, when you talk about a kid who played his senior season with people designing and scheming against him, not playing to his side, and to come up still with 24 sacks, it’s pretty impressive,” he said.

In 18 years, five defensive players have won South Carolina’s Mr. Football Award — Chris Hope, Moe Thompson, Prince Miller, and former Gamecocks Stephon Gilmore and Jadeveon Clowney. Miller would be the first linebacker to win the award.

“I’m getting chills just hearing you say it. As a dad that has had a very high level of success, to see your son get that kind of honor, to be top five in the state, it would be amazing,” Corey Miller said.

“It’s kind of like the Heisman; you know the challenges that you’re up against, especially with guys like Mason Rudolph and what he did in the championship game, which was crazy,” he said.

Six quarterbacks have been bestowed the honor, and this year’s group of candidates has two quarterbacks — Rudolph and Park, who faced each other in the Class 4A Division II title game.

Rudolph, having piloted the Trojans to a 15-0 record with a state record eight touchdown passes in the championship, may be the most likely Mr. Football winner.

But Miller’s stats are comparable with those of the last defensive player to win — Clowney.

Whatever the odds, Corey Miller said, being named Mr. Football would be an incredible accomplishment for Christian Miller.

“It would be the exclamation point on the end of his high school career,” he said.

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