DETROIT -- Prized University at Buffalo recruit Rich Miller never is the biggest player on the field.
The 6-foot, 215-pound inside linebacker makes up for that with his mind, showing leadership ability and football sense coaches dream of at the position.
“He’s able to be a coach on the field,” said Tyrone Spencer, Miller’s head coach at Detroit’s Martin Luther King High School. “He’s thinking the same things that I’m thinking. When you have someone like that, it makes things real easy.”
Miller is the highest-ranked player so far in UB football’s 2019 class. He’s one of two three-star recruits among eight players who have given verbal commitments to the Bulls. All verbal commitments in college football are non-binding until the official signing date in early February, although players can sign during the early period in December.
Recruiting services have Miller rated slightly higher than a UB safety commit, Marcus Fuqua from Michigan. Miller had a pair of offers from larger programs, Syracuse and Cincinnati, and opted for the Bulls after a successful visit to campus. Miller has seen the players before him establish themselves, find a platform, and said he hopes to be the next in line.
“I not going for the bigger school,” Miller said. “I’m going for the school that I can make my name.”
The upcoming recruiting class will have big shoes to fill when this year’s stellar senior group leaves the program. One of the biggest difference makers of that bunch, current star linebacker Khalil Hodge, is one of the featured players speaking Tuesday in Miller’s hometown at the Mid-American Conference Media Day.
Could Miller be the next Hodge, the next diamond in the rough? He has done well to establish himself in two years with King’s successful program, emerging as one of the main leaders of a senior class that boards 15 or 16 college-level talents.
“I know how to read offenses,” Miller said. “I can read the running back specifically. I describe my game as smart. I take pride in just knowing what the offense is going to do.”
UB coaches can’t comment on players who have committed until they sign with the program.
Miller first joined the Crusaders as a sophomore in 2016, earning playing time on a squad that won a state title. Spencer saw the potential in him then, giving him a start in a state playoff game.
Spencer said Miller’s awareness was lacking at points during his sophomore year, but last year he saw a big jump in Miller’s impact plays and general playmaking ability. Other schools noticed. Miller also had scholarship offers from Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Toledo and Cornell.
“He came out like a madman on fire,” Spencer said of his junior year. “He was just smacking people around, making plays.”
A major key in Miller’s success has been his willingness to put in extra work. He quietly spent every morning before school in the weight room with his cousin, Jalen McGaughy, who is currently committed to Northern Illinois.
He has run track the past two years, cutting his 40 time down from 5.01 to 4.65.
In practice and games, he has studied hard while playing alongside fellow collegiate talent.
“That was probably 95 percent of my focus,” Miller said of the mental side of the game. “As a sophomore, I had two seniors in front of me. I had to watch and learn. ... In order for me to even get on the field, coach Spence wanted to know, do I even know anything? Do I know every assignment? He allows us to call our own plays, so we have to build that trust in him.”