Over the last 48-72 hours, we have focused nearly entirely on Geno Smith, after all the Quarterback position is the most important one on the football field. Strangely we haven’t heard so much about Revis and the trade, and we haven’t focused on his eventual replacement, Dee Milliner. With the #9 selection in the 2013 NFL draft, the New York Jets selected the physical corner out of Alabama, a player who had dreamed his whole life of realizing his goal of playing in the national football league. Now we thought it was about time we turned to our #1 selection and give you a little more information about the former Crimson Tide cornerback.
The thing you need to really grasp about Milliner is that he has been playing at the highest level of football his entire career. Growing up in Millbrook, Alabama, Milliner played 6A football at Stanhope Elmore High School. 6A football is the highest level of high school football, and he not only played at that level, he excelled at it and earned numerous accolades including an All-State first teamer and USA Today All-American selection, as well as being invited to attend the Under Armour All-America game, where the finest high school players compete for the attention of colleges across the nation.
As a junior in 2008, Milliner made 57 tackles with 33 solo stops while intercepting 7 passes on his way to being voted Area Defensive Player of the Year, while also rushing for 527 yards and returning two punts and a kick-off for touchdowns. He made 71 tackles as a senior in 2009, while intercepting 3 passes and defending 8, his reduction in interceptions has been put down to the fact that he had a reputation and many high school quarterbacks decided to throw away from his side of the field. In 2009, Milliner rushed for 487 yards on 51 carries for a 9.5 yards per carry average and seven touchdowns while totalling 107 receiving yards and one score. Highly regarded as a great athlete, his position was always going to be defensive back.
COLLEGE: ALABMA CRIMSON TIDE
As expected Milliner was one of the most hotly pursued prospects in the 2010 recruiting class. He fielded offers from teams such as Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Stanford among others. Growing up in Alabama, in a household of mad Alabama fans – he was only ever going to commit to the Crimson Tide. Rated as the #1 CB by Scout.com, a 5* prospect from Rivals.com and graded at the 84 level from ESPN. Milliner would be Alabama’s most highly rated prospect in the 2010 class, being the highest rated prospect heading into a program like Alabama, well that brings with it a lot of pressure. Reading back through the recruiting profiles on Milliner, all agreed that his coverage awareness, size and toughness were his best traits. His only negative? Closing speed, something that is certainly not a negative anymore.
Milliner wasted no time in Alabama, playing in all 13 games as a true freshman and starting 11. He totalled 55 tackles, 44 of them being solo. He also recorded 7 pass break-ups, 1 interception and 1 quarterback hurry. If there is one thing you can guarantee at Alabama, it’s that their defensive players are going to be well coached. Dee was named a freshman All-American by college football news. In 2011 Milliner led the team with 9 pass break-ups and 3 interceptions while only starting 6 games. He did play in all 13 contests, but as Alabama’s 3rd cornerback he played mostly in nickel and dime packages.
2012 was without doubt Dee Milliner’s best season for the Crimson Tide. He had 18 pass break-ups while only allowing 13 receptions all season. His 34 career break-ups rank second on Alabama’s all-time list. Milliner missed just the one game through injury (Western Kentucky). Milliner showed toughness, awareness and exceptional closing speed in becoming college football’s premier defensive back in the nation. Earning unanimous first team All-America and All-SEC honors ... collected the 2012 first team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), the Football Writers of America (FWAA), the Walter Camp Foundation, the Associated Press, Sporting News and Sports Illustrated. To sum up, he was outstanding and certainly the best cover corner in all of football.
Let’s move to an area that was widely debated before the draft, his injury situation. Now there is no hiding the fact that Milliner has undergone five surgeries in his career. He has had a right knee scope, a sports hernia surgery, a right tibia stress fracture surgery and two surgeries, one on each shoulder, one of which he is still rehabbing. However Milliner is confident he will be ready by the start of training camp. Now on the surface this is worrying, he is a young man and he has had to undergo five surgeries. However it is also important to remember that in three years at Alabama, he missed one game, that’s it….just one. As mentioned earlier that was the 2012 contest against Western Kentucky, he missed that game with a sore hip. Nick Saban said that he could have easily played had they needed him, but it wasn’t worth the risk. So while he may have had some issues with injuries, it hasn’t prevented him from taking the field every Saturday.
So what makes Dee Milliner such a good prospect? Well let’s do a little mini scouting report on him.
+ Great size and length for the position.
+ Very physical both at the line in press, and coming up to defend the run
+ First class awareness and read/react ability.
+ Has exceptional closing speed, baiting receivers to throw his way.
+ An excellent open field tackler, who delivers a hit but always wraps.
+ Very smart football player, very disciplined.
~ Too aggressive?
~ Needs to get a little smoother in the back pedal
Let me just say that I couldn’t be happier that Dee Milliner is on our football team. He is the kind of cover corner that this team needs, especially now Revis has moved on to pastures new. He will win over fans with his ability to blanket receivers, and his physical nature at the line and in run support. Will he start immediately on the outside? That’s a good question. Obviously Cromartie is pencilled in to be the #1 and Kyle Wilson made some improvements last season that could suggest he is growing into the #2 role. I personally think he’ll beat Kyle Wilson out for the number two spot, but regardless he will play a lot of football this year. Cornerback is a very difficult position to adapt to at the NFL level; however the main reason is the physicality of the receivers. However Dee Milliner isn’t your ordinary cornerback, and he plays more physical than most. So I don’t think he’ll struggle with the transition quite as much as some.
Sport Science: Dee Milliner (via ESPN)
Alabama CB Dee Milliner 2012 Highlights ᴴᴰ (via CollegeFootballLive)