Less than a week from National Signing Day, when the ink finally will be dry and college choices finalized, South Carolina and Clemson might look back at this class and remember the one that got away.
Spring Valley’s Christian Miller is the state’s highest-rated recruit, and he is expected to sign with Alabama on Wednesday. It will be one of the few times in the past five seasons that South Carolina has missed on the state’s top player.
Miller, the son of former South Carolina and NFL standout Corey Miller, says the reasons he will not play his college football close to home are more numerous than he just wanted to go elsewhere.
The fact that Christian didn’t follow his father to South Carolina has been well discussed on message boards – almost ad nauseam. Corey made his home in Columbia after his playing days with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings ended. He became an outspoken, sometimes controversial voice on an afternoon radio sports talk show on 560 The Team, often ruffling the feathers of South Carolina and Clemson fans.
Those views were heard by the USC coaching staff and fan base. That attention to the elder Miller led directly to opinions formed by Christian.
“I heard a bunch of negativity from the fans of South Carolina and that made me feel very unwelcomed,” Christian said. “I felt like I was disrespected. Maybe they disagreed with a comment my dad made, but it wasn’t right for South Carolina fans to connect me and my name to that whole situation.
“I’m my own person and I have my own thoughts and beliefs. It wasn’t right for them to judge me and say the things they said about me just because of my dad. That did play a factor in my recruitment. I didn’t want to go to a school like that.”
Corey Miller said his time on the radio had a direct impact on his son’s recruitment.
“I thought my job was to give people what I thought was right and wrong,” Corey said. “Some people didn’t like that. I don’t think some people could handle that. I was a former player and wasn’t always saying things everyone wanted to hear. It was a situation where I don’t think USC felt comfortable if Christian came to school here with me covering this football team. I can see where that might be a situation for people.”
Christian Miller also didn’t feel much of a connection to the USC coaching staff. Former defensive line coach Brad Lawing was his primary recruiter but when Lawing left to take a job at Florida at the end of the 2012 season, Miller felt the communication between he and school deteriorated. Also, that the school is located less than 20 miles from his home played a role in his decision.
“I didn’t have a connection to the coaches very well,” Christian said. “It would have been nice to play for the program that my dad played for but it really wasn’t the spot for me. I wasn’t a big fan of the campus and I didn’t care for the idea of going to college five minutes down the road. I grew up here my whole life, so it was just a little too close.”
Clemson was a factor because they were the first school to offer Miller before his junior season, but he said it didn’t feel like the place he needed to be.
“Clemson was my first offer so I definitely did have interest in them, because they were in the state but not right in my back yard,” Christian said. “That sounded nice but it would have been a lot of pressure, just with it being Clemson and having a dad that played at the University of South Carolina.”
Miller said he didn’t like all the attention he was receiving. He said he thought he was going to end his recruitment early when he committed to Florida before his senior season. But that decision was made before he had taken official visits to other schools. After many heart-to-heart talks with his father, the decision was made to de-commit and re-open his recruiting.
That’s when Alabama increased its interest. Florida, Georgia and Clemson remained in the mix, but, ultimately, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide won out.
Corey Miller said he was pleased with the way his son handled the recruitment, saying Christian showed great maturity and did things his way. Even though South Carolina was not really in the final mix, Corey’s feelings toward the place he played from 1987-1990 are unchanged.
“No matter what happens, I’m always a Gamecock and will be a Gamecock for life,” said Corey, who now works for WACH-FOX TV. “I spent four years there and my name will always be in the hall of captains. But I’m looking forward to the next four or five years of my son being a part of the Crimson Tide community. God doesn’t make mistakes and Christian trusts God and we feel it was the best decision. I have no hard feelings at all toward South Carolina.”
Miller added Parade All-American to his numerous football achievements. He led Spring Valley to an undefeated regular season with 188 tackles, 25 for loss, a school record 24 sacks and four forced fumbles. That has earned him a consensus top 100 ranking and he is considered by many recruiting sites as the No. 1 outside linebacker prospect in the 2014 class.
He could have graduated high school early, but he doesn’t turn 18 until June. He is enjoying his final year of high school but when he reports to Tuscaloosa this summer, all the focus will be on getting better as a player and a person.
“I still feel like I need time to develop,” Christian Miller said. “I’m not one of those guys that wants to go in as a freshman and be on the field, starting, being the star of the team. I know the reality of things and chances of that happening are slim. I just want to go in and learn, develop and be the ultimate player and teammate on and off the field.”