He will finally be getting his chance.
The former Whitefield Academy standout is slated to be the Midshipmen’s top quarterback when the Midshipmen kick off their season Sept. 1 against Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland.
“I’m just really excited. I can’t wait,” said the 6-foot, 200 pound junior.
It’s the culmination of a long wait for Miller since he graduated from Whitefield in 2009. It began with him spending one year at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., where he got used to the intricacies of the Midshipmen’s option offense.
“The prep school helped set a foundation for me,” Miller said. “It was a good decision to go there. I got used to the school and the offense and was more prepared when I got here. I knew I would be playing behind Ricky Dobbs and Kriss Proctor my first two years, so I had two years to sit and learn.
“Plus, the prep school helped me adjust to the military style and their way of doing things.”
After biding his time through the 2010 season, not seeing any game action, Miller appeared in seven games last year and finished the season with 150 yards on 49 carries. He also completed 12 of 29 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns.
As the reserve quarterback last year, Miller had to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, and never was that truer than in Navy’s seventh game of the year, when starting quarterback Kriss Proctor was knocked out of the game with an elbow injury.
In came Miller, who led Navy on a fourth-quarter rally against East Carolina, throwing two touchdown passes to give the Midshipmen a 31-25 lead.
After Navy gave the lead back, Miller drove the Midshipmen back down the field on the next possession, but a 42-yard field goal that would have tied the game ricocheted off the right upright.
Miller finished that game 5-for-12 in the air for 126 yards.
“I was excited to be the second-string guy,” he said. “I had to be ready when my number was called.”
Miller had his number called again the following week, filling in for Proctor again when Navy played at Notre Dame. Success was fleeting, however, with the Fighting Irish defense proving too powerful and Navy losing 56-14, but it never stemmed Miller’s spirit.
“He played a lot against East Carolina and almost brought us back in that game,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He didn’t play as well against Notre Dame, but that’s a tough place to make your first start.
“The important thing was he got the experience.”
Miller’s enthusiasm stems from his time at Whitefield. As the Wolfpack’s quarterback, he guided them to two of their most successful seasons in program history.
Whitefield went 7-5 in 2007 en route to winning its first region championship and first state playoff game. The following year, Miller led the team to a 10-2 mark — its first 10-win season — a second-straight region championship and another state playoff victory. Whitefield also won a record nine consecutive games in 2008.
Despite his success on the field, Miller didn’t get a lot of offers from big programs, mostly because of his height. Navy, however, eventually took notice of his strong arm and running ability, and Miller has never looked back.
“Navy was one of the best options for me coming out of high school,” he said. “I’m not a big guy, so I didn’t get a lot of looks. They were a Division I program that took an interest in me, and they allowed me to serve my country when I was done playing. I liked what they had to offer.”
Because Whitefield operated out of a spread offense, Miller needed time to adjust to the Midshipmen’s triple-option attack, so his work at the prep school gave him the proper training to run that system when he officially arrived in Annapolis, Md.
Now, with Proctor gone and the spotlight squarely on him, Miller has stepped up his game in terms of preparation and focus.
“I study the playbook a lot, getting the options down and everything,” said Miller, who’s goals for the season include leading the Midshipmen to a bowl game and helping the team win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy among the nation’s three service academies. “There are still some things I’m trying to get used to doing. It’s all about doing a good job of executing.
“Playing the spread at Whitefield, we threw a lot, and when things broke down, I was able to run the ball. We don’t throw the ball a lot here, but when we do, I have to make those throws.”
Niumatalolo can attest to Miller’s maturation as an option quarterback.
“The main thing is his grasp of the offense,” the coach said. “The triple option is a hard offense to run, and his triple-option mechanics have gotten a lot better.”
Marietta Daily Journal sports editor John Bednarowski contributed to this report.