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Alabama Football Impact Players

Linebacker Christian Miller expected to be Alabama’s next elite pass rusher

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

His time to fully blossom has come.

Edge rushers Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson struck fear in the hearts of quarterbacks, while bringing joy to Alabama fans, teammates and its coaching staff throughout the 2016 season. The duo turned in a combined 35 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, 22 quarterback hurries, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, an interception and two touchdowns in the Crimson Tide’s Southeastern Conference championship year.

With losing both guys to the National Football League and the possibility of having Rashaan Evans at inside and outside linebacker, redshirt junior Christian Miller emerges as the next elite pass rusher for Tide football.

After being a valued contributor on special teams in 2015, head coach Nick Saban supplied more of his trust to the South Carolina native on defense. Through 15 games a year ago, Miller collected 16 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks (-12) and four quarterback pressures.

During the offseason, he moved from 230 to 240 pounds. In Saban’s presser on Tuesday, he said the added weight for Miller will help him turn speed into power and be a productive rusher.

“He’s done a good job,” Saban said. “He’s gotten stronger and with him being in the program for a while, he has a lot of knowledge and experience. I think the thing that we’ve been trying to get him to do is to sustain playing at the point. He’s made improvement in that area and can certainly help in the pass rush category.”

One of Miller’s biggest plays last year was securing the key block in Eddie Jackson’s 85-yard punt return touchdown against Ole Miss. He locked up his man – John Youngblood – near the 40-yard line, allowing Jackson to reach the edge and sprint toward the end zone.

Eddie Jackson 85-yard punt return for touchdown - Alabama vs Ole Miss

Eleven of his 16 tackles came versus SEC schools, including a career-tying three stops against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Prior to enrolling at Alabama in 2014, Miller was a five-star recruit and the nation’s top-rated outside linebacker prospect. Listed at 6-foot-4, he amassed 314 total tackles, 38 sacks and four forced fumbles in his tenure at Spring Valley High School. Following the SEC championship celebration, Tim Williams said Miller is an up and coming star. Thus far in spring practice, Miller has been leading drills.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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