Miller finally getting a shot at linebacker for Hornets

Cody Miller

WINCHESTER – Cody Miller has been biding his time.

After graduating from Strasburg High School in the spring of 2013, Miller enrolled at Shenandoah University that fall and joined the school’s football program as an inside linebacker. With Michael Messick (who graduated following the 2015 season as SU’s all-time leading tackler) firmly entrenched at the position, Miller took a back seat on the depth chart over the next three years, seeing sparse playing time primarily on special teams during that span.

Despite playing in only five games in his first three college seasons, including four last fall, Miller was determined that he would get his shot at contributing to the Hornets’ defense.

“I knew the time would come,” Miller said Wednesday. “I just had to be patient with it. I knew eventually I would get my time.”

Now a senior, Miller’s time has arrived. Messick’s departure left a hole in the middle of the SU’s 4-4 defense that the team hadn’t had to fill in the previous four seasons, and Miller entered preseason camp as one of the front-runners in a group of unproven replacements. Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said Wednesday that Miller will likely make his first collegiate start on Saturday against Gallaudet, a decision backed by Miller’s strong performance in last Saturday’s scrimmage against Gettysburg College.

Miller’s perch atop the depth chart is far from a certain thing, however. Yoder reiterated that the second inside linebacker spot (fifth-year senior Micheal Wroble is locked into the other) remains a “daily evaluation” and that sophomore Marty Stevenson, freshman Steve Gebhardt and senior George Cluster will all play the position.

What is certain is that Miller will see his first dose of extended action this fall.

“He’s not gonna beat himself, which really helps as a linebacker,” Yoder said. “He understands how offenses are trying to attack and he’s always in the right spot, and that speaks dividends.

“He’s a no-nonsense kid. Doesn’t say a lot but is always ready to play physically and mentally. Works hard in the weight room, does really well in school. Guys say those are program guys and that’s a huge compliment, and now that he’s getting to see the payoff is really good.”

Though Miller, who has four career tackles, will be asked to help occupy a critical position in the heart of the Hornets’ defense, he will be in good company. Senior Malik Sims and junior Javonte Rose – both returning starters – will bookend the middle of the field at the two outside linebacker spots, and the veteran Wroble will be a familiar face lining up right next to Miller.

“His experience playing is huge,” Miller said of Wroble, who has 206 tackles in 31 career games. “It really helps me out to where if I have a question or if I’m not sure of something, I can always go to him and he can clarify it for me and he can always help me out whenever I need it.”

Wroble, who said he has embraced his role as a mentor to all of the inexperienced inside linebackers during the preseason, praised Miller’s work ethic on and off the field.

“(Miller is) one of those kids that I hope the freshmen look up to (him) and say they wanna be like him,” Wroble said. “He does everything the right way, with lifting, on the field. He gives 110 percent every day, even in the classroom. He’s one of those blue-collar kids that comes to work every day.”

A silver lining to Miller’s limited playing time over the last three years is that it enabled him to study the intricacies of Messick’s success. Much like Miller (5-foot-9, 195 pounds), Messick was undersized for a middle linebacker at 5-8, 180, but still managed 348 career tackles, including 126 last season.

“It was definitely fun to watch,” Miller said. “Just something to aspire to be like and just watching how he practiced and how he played on Saturdays was just always something to look up to and hope one day that could be me.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com