Florida Gators X-Factor vs. Ole Miss: LB Ventrell Miller

Brandon Carroll

With Florida kicking off for the first time for the 2020 season this Saturday, the Gators are slated to take on the multi-dimensional and sneakily dangerous offense of Ole Miss.

Looking to trot out John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral for a significant amount of snaps each, the necessity to be prepared to line up against the two is crucial, as pointed out by Todd Grantham.

"We've got to be ready to play both," Grantham said when asked about the talented athletes. However, containing the duo is easier said than done.

Given the limited amount of turnover for the Gators defensively, the common thought would be that limiting the production of the Rebels offense would not be a tall task for a team in national championship contention. However, with David Reese II moving on to the NFL, the Gators lose not only their multi-season leading tackler but their leader on the defense leaving a significant leadership void to fill and fill quickly.

Stepping into that role is none other than redshirt junior and this week's Florida Gators X-Factor against Ole Miss: Ventrell Miller.

Starting at the middle linebacker position for the first time this upcoming Saturday, Miller is presented with yet another challenge to overcome during his collegiate career.

From making the move to starter last season following an impressive outing against Miami in week zero that included six tackles, two tackles for loss, and two sacks, Miller went on to play in 12 games last season. Starting in the next eleven he played in, Miller capped off the year with 55 tackles, five and a half tackles for loss, and three sacks.

Recently, during a Zoom with media members in August, Miller expressed his intentions of taking over the middle of the Gators defense by saying “I’m going to embrace the role.”

And embracing the role is a must, indeed.

Looking to build off his breakout campaign in 2019, Miller is now expected to pick up where Reese left off as the “quarterback” of the UF defense. For any player, this can be viewed as a tall order, but it can be especially difficult when facing off against the difference in skill sets of Ole Misses two-quarterback system.

With Plumlee bringing a dynamic dual-threat style of play to the table, Florida has to be prepared for him to take off running at any moment. Examining the Gators track record, versatile quarterbacks like Plumlee has spelled fits for the defensive unit in the past, and could do so Saturday if given the opportunity.

On the other hand, Corral—a former Florida Gators commit—is an individual that doesn’t bring the same presence as a runner, but imposes a threat through the air.

As a result, the responsibilities cast upon Miller in week one will surely be as difficult as they come.

Not only is he trying to mold himself into becoming even just a fragment of what Reese has been for the Gators defensive unit throughout his storied career at Florida, but he will be trying to do so for the first time against virtually two different offensive schemes. In order for Florida to separate themselves from an Ole Miss team who has no business hanging in given the talent on each roster, Miller must find his groove and find it quickly.

Needing to effectively communicate various assignments to his teammates along with dissecting the trends of the game to then make the necessary change on the drop of a hat, Miller’s expectations have skyrocketed from where they were at last season.

If he can put together a performance in which he effectively reads Ole Misses offense, is able to adapt to the flow of the game with ease, and can transition how the defense plays against Corral versus Plumlee, Florida could have themselves a day in Oxford.

If he starts out his journey at middle linebacker experiencing some bumps in the road, the Gators could allow the Rebels to keep the ball game closer than it should be throughout.