Given the current times of COVID-19 running rampant on the United States—and the entire world for that matter—the collegiate recruiting process has taken an unprecedented turn. With little-to-no interaction among players and coaches, as well as the inability for student-athletes to take visits to interested schools, teams have had to adapt the ways they go about pursuing talent.
However, that bump in the road hasn’t stopped Dan Mullen and the rest of the Gators recruiting staff from handing out offers to upcoming prospects.
In the past few days, the Gators have offered players from the 2021, 2022, and even 2023 classes, including 2022 offensive tackle from Strongsville, Ohio, Blake Miller.
Despite being a sophomore in high school, Miller fits the mold of intimidating figures that offensive Line coach John Hevesy has heavily targeted since he arrived in Gainesville. Standing at 6-6, 315 lbs., Miller resembles one of the newest offensive line additions for the Gators - Joshua Braun - in size and is the prototypical mauler for Hevesy’s offensive line.
On the first impression, Miller is a monstrous brute that plays with extreme physicality and overpowers his opponents, but it goes further than that. On top of his extraordinary physical attributes for someone his age, Miller’s effort and hustle are top-tier. Showing off a high motor until the whistle is blown, he finishes plays exceptionally well, which is a desirable quality for any player to have.
Receiving his offer this past Thursday, Miller took it to Twitter to announce and show his appreciation for Florida.
In an exclusive interview with AllGators, Miller spoke about his decision, and how much of a fit he'd be to the Florida Gators football team.
“I talked to (Gators offensive line coach) Coach Hevesy, it was a pretty brief conversation...just briefly got to know him, got to know a brief overview of the Florida program," Miller told AllGators when asked about who was recruiting him. "It was nothing in depth just a brief introduction. He said he liked the way I play but nothing too in-depth.”
Despite not getting to know about coach Hevesy or the program very well, he was able to put a voice to the man pursuing him.
Miller showed interest in learning more about Florida and liked the direction Mullen is leading the Gators. “The program is on the up and up.”
Miller says he remembers when Florida was the premier team in college football and feels like Mullen is doing a good job in bringing that back. He likes a program that isn’t complacent with where they’re at and is always striving to get better. And of course, academics are a big factor in his recruitment.
“I definitely look for academics [and] on top of that I also look at the coaches I’d be working with like the head coach, offensive coordinator, and offensive line coach," said Miller.
"I just look for the personality in them. I like a coach who’s not really a yeller and screamer but more of a motivator, one who tells you what you need to do and how you can fix something if you did it wrong. But, then, if you do something right, they’re the first ones to congratulate you."
However, Miller has been unable to get a feel for the Florida coaching staff given the lack of contact between the two sides. When the madness of COVID-19 ends and business resumes as usual, Miller will look to visit a multitude of schools, including Florida.
“I would definitely love to visit Florida. You know, just see what they’re all about, and once this stuff clears, I’d like to visit them, and if I [were] in Florida, I would also like to visit the University of Miami, and Florida State University as well. Kind of just get a few things done on one trip."
In 2018, the Gators found great success in the run game due to an experienced offensive line. However, that success was not to be found this past season.
With the lack of run production in Dan Mullen’s offense in 2019, a focal point going forward is to acquire big yet athletic lineman to play the front lines to increase the very thing that Mullen prides himself on: The “smashmouth” part of his “smashmouth-spread” offense.
Miller fits the bill to do just that.
“Our high school offense is mostly run, so I definitely think I’m pretty strong in the run game,” Miller said when asked about his strengths. Given the tendencies of Strongsville high school, it is no surprise he has confidence in his run blocking abilities.
However, he looks to improve on rounding out his skillset over the next two seasons. “Things I’d like to work on is kind of just blocking in space, so like blocking for screens and climbing to linebackers is something I would like to improve on. I kind of just want to round out my game so that I’m confident in everything. You know [to the point where] there’s not really much I’m not confident within my game.”
For now, he’ll have to do so on his own. Since the coronavirus pandemic has arisen, players have been forced to take matters into their own hands when it comes to working out and staying in football form.
“On a normal day I’ll wake up, and we have a hill by our football field, I’ll go up there and run with a couple of my teammates," Miller stated. “A friend of my dads has a really nice weight room at his house, and we go over there every other day to work out.”
Currently, Miller has his eyes set on Michigan as one of his top destinations, he likes the way head coach Jim Harbaugh runs the program, and the talent they have produced. “I like (Michigan offensive line coach) Coach [Ed] Warinner a lot as well.”
When asked if Michigan was his top school at the moment, Miller noted “It’s up there... My recruitment is definitely still open. That’s just as of right now, but that could all change.”
Having visited Michigan before the coronavirus outbreak, Miller feels comfortable with its coaching staff.
Miller hopes to have a decision made to commit before he steps foot onto the field for the first high school practice of his senior year.
At the moment, Miller hides under the radar, but given his appealing size and run blocking prowess, the momentum is sure to pick up as he approaches his junior season just next year. With offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, and of course, Florida as well as other schools, Miller is a sought after prospect who continues to make a name for himself on the high school football field before taking the next step.