Bruce Miller, Starting from Scratch

If you're a 49er fan, you've probably caught wind of the name Bruce Miller in recent months. The two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year from Central Florida was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the late hours of the 2011 NFL Draft. Although he earned all of his recognition as a collegiate defensive end, he is in the midst of transitioning to a professional fullback.

The Niners rookie has already been making serious progress and had about 3 or 4 excellent veteran-like blocks in the second preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. The 6'2, 245-pounder displayed a prowess for hitting, connecting on block after block. It seemed that about every three plays Miller was in, I would forget that he was only a rookie competing at a position he had no prior experience at.

One of his most impressive blocks on the day was when he stood up veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly on a run up the gut to Frank Gore. Kelly would have had Gore at the line or for a loss had Miller not locked onto him. He knows his assignments, understands the game from both sides of the ball and is fearless.

Another great block was the one on the blitzing Raider linebacker that allowed Kendall Hunter to shoot through the large crease the offensive line created for a 53-yard touchdown. It was one of the few great blocks Miller made that would make or break the play.

Late in the game, Miller was still contributing, showing he plays all 60 minutes and knows how to finish. The rookie led an off tackle run to the left; a defensive lineman penetrated late and was going to pull down Hunter for a loss but Miller acrobatically adjusted his upper body and got two hands on the lineman's chest, freeing up Hunter for another big gain.

In addition to his already efficient blocking, he was running routes out of the backfield and motioned about half a dozen times. Miller even had one catch on the day for a first down. It is apparent that it doesn't matter what side of the ball Miller plays, he is just a football player.

So, what can we expect from Bruce Miller in his first year? I expect him to make the team as the second fullback on the depth chart, behind only Moran Norris. I wouldn't be surprised if Harbaugh used the tandem of Norris and Miller the way Rex Ryan used LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. Meaning, Norris would carry the brunt of the work at the beginning of the season and Miller would help lighten the load as the season progresses.

However they use him, I expect production out of him in his first year if he stays healthy. Miller should get a good number of reps during his first season, usually to spell Norris when he's winded. I'm going to pay close attention to Miller's performance as I find him to be one of the most intriguing stories in San Francisco this year.

 

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