Photo: Ventrell Miller; Credit: University of Florida athletic association
You would be hard-pressed to find someone as excited that linebacker Ventrell Miller returned to Florida for a fifth season than his own position coach, Christian Robinson.
Despite the possibility of being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, Miller elected to strap it up with the Gators for one more year. Standing at the forefront of an otherwise young linebacker group and acting as a leader of UF's defense, Miller now enters his second season as Florida's starting middle linebacker, the top communicator across the entire unit who is responsible with making plays against both the pass and the run.
"I can't explain just how excited I am to have [Miller] with me," Robinson exclaimed on Thursday."He's got unfinished business."
Robinson reiterated offensive line coach John Hevesy's message, who had been at the press conference podium moments before the defensive assistant, about the 2020 season and complications, trials, and tribulations that arose from playing football throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past year, the team has met new challenges regularly in order to play 12 games, including overcoming numerous outbreaks of COVID-19 within the program, a major one taking place during the regular season. Robinson was complimentary of how Miller handled the entire process and performed on the field along the way.
"Being able to have him with me and everything he had to go through, I mean he had a great offseason last year. I thought he performed really well, and obviously, he's a driven guy that wanted to do more," shared Robinson.
Recognizing that, Robinson understood that Miller had the opportunity to jump to the next level. However, Robinson provided the Lakeland, Fla. native with advice as he contemplated his decision to stay or go that could have played a part in Miller's choice to select the latter.
"But, he had some things he wanted to accomplish, and I think when you're debating whether to leave or go, it comes down to, is there things left that are on the table that you think you can accomplish as a team member?" Robinson pondered. "Some goals as a Florida Gator?"
Based on his decision, it is apparent that Miller, indeed, desires to achieve more in an orange and blue uniform. One of his goals would appear to be leaving behind a legacy as a middle linebacker for UF, living up to the standard that Gator Great Brandon Spikes established at both Miller's position and wearing Miller's No. 51 jersey.
"I talk to him all the time about that number 51 jersey," said Robinson. "I said, 'You know, there's a guy that played before you that a lot of people think about in that jersey, and a great player. You can share some of that if you come back and perform the way that you do and the things that I know you're capable of.'"
A season ago, Miller was capable of leading Florida in total tackles with 86, compiling 3.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, and three defended passes. Although the Gators' defense took a step back as a whole from year's past in 2020, Miller was one of the few bright spots and perhaps an underappreciated member of the unit.
Now, one of if not the most seasoned member of the unit, Miller aims to take another step forward in a leadership role this year.
"The leadership, the things that he does that nobody else sees outside of this building. Those are the things that are left for him," proclaimed Robinson. "I think he's gonna perform really well, and lead this defense.'