Senior receiver eyes big finish to Sooner career
Dejuan Miller was not one of the more highly recruited receivers to ever commit to OU. In fact, Scout.com rated Miller as the No. 13 wide receiver in the nation in 2007, but the senior was only the third-highest ranked receiver to come to Oklahoma that season.
Josh Jarboe, a 6-foot-3-inch receiver from Decatur, Ga., was touted as one of the best receivers OU had signed in many years and rated by many scouts as one of the top ten players in the country at any position. Jameel Owens, a Muskogee native, was rated as the top player in the state and one of the top 10 receivers in the nation. Miller, at 6-foot-4-inches and 217 pounds was looked at as a big body that could go up and get a ball in traffic or wreak havoc over the middle. However, he did not receive nearly the hype of his fellow OU signees.
Funny how things work out. Jarboe, compliments of an ill-timed rap video on YouTube, never made it to summer workouts. Owens, meanwhile, simply did not produce. He finished his career at OU after only one season and a total of four catches for 44 yards.
That leaves Miller as the sole receiver left from that touted class. Miller is a competitor, though. He says he is not happy with simply being on the team; he wants to contribute.
“I’m feeling like this is my last spring, last summer, last season, last everything,” Miller said shortly before the season began. “So the fans, I want them to see another 24 out there.”
Miller has not yet had the most productive season; however, that is reminiscent of his career at OU.
Slow start as a Sooner
It took Miller time to pick up the system after coming out of high school. In fact, statistically, Miller was less productive than Jameel Owens his freshman year, catching only two balls for 14 yards. However, he showed glimpses of brilliance during his sophomore campaign.
He slowly worked his way into the rotation, and by the fifth game of the season against Baylor, Miller had his first career start. He finished the game with five catches for 67 yards.
Three games later, against Kansas State, the sophomore posted career highs with nine receptions for 94 yards, also catching his first collegiate touchdown. Add to that, a six-catch, 84-yard performance in the Sooners’ Sun Bowl win, and Dejuan Miller appeared ready to break out.
In 2010, Miller’s production slowed somewhat at the beginning of the season with the emergence of freshman Kenny Stills, but the big target kept doing enough to warrant playing time.
He had big games against Cincinnati and Texas, recording more than 60 yards receiving in both of those games, and received his first start of the year the next game against Iowa State.
The junior was on track to finish his career in a big way. Then, he went down in practice the following week. Miller tore the cartilage in his knee and would miss the rest of the season rehabbing the injury.
“It was definitely a blow just because of how well I played against Texas and Cincinnati and leading up to that,” Miller said. “But at the same time, I just put it all in God’s hands. He sets it all for me.”
One last chance
But this year, his senior year and last chance to prove himself, Miller has had less than stellar statistics.
The senior currently has eight receptions this year for 79 total yards. A part of that little production is a lack of playing time. With senior Ryan Broyles and sophomore Kenny Stills playing consistently at a high level and sophomores Trey Franks and Jaz Reynolds stepping up in big ways, the Sooner receiving core is rather crowded.
Coaches say they have been pleased with the way Miller has come along after recovering from last year’s injury, but they are also pleased with the rest of the group. At a program as prestigious as Oklahoma, the players making the most plays will be the ones to see the field on Saturdays.
“They all want to play, and that’s a good thing,” receivers coach Jay Norvell said. “They don’t always get to play as much as they like, and they’ve got to be really competitive when they get in there and make something happen. That’s Oklahoma football, and they understand that.”
Maybe nobody understands that more than Dejuan Miller.
The senior has been at Oklahoma and been on both sides — on the field and on the bench.
Maybe it is that understanding and a greater sense of urgency propelling Miller to step up his game. Maybe it is better work ethic in practice or simply taking advantage of every opportunity he is given on Saturday. Whatever the reason, Miller appears, once again, to be ready to make a significant impact for Oklahoma.
Stepping up when it matters
The senior is coming off easily his best game of the season. He caught three passes for 42 yards in the Sooners’ blowout win over then eighth-ranked Kansas State.
He also went up high in the back of the end zone and came down with an extremely impressive touchdown early in the contest.
Oklahoma coaches say they want to rotate more receivers in for the remainder of the year to create different looks and keep fresh legs on the field. Miller could play a big part in that, but receivers coach Jay Norvell said he is excited about getting the senior more chances.
“Dejuan is a big target, and he’s played very very well at times,” Norvell said. “I’m really pleased with the way he played Saturday, you know, in the red zone going up for that ball. He’s just another big target for Landry, and he’s just a guy that we feel like we can get more plays out of. And, we’re trying, with the other guys that we’ve got to make sure he has some opportunities.”
Miller has yet to put up the gaudy numbers that other seniors, such as defensive end Frank Alexander, have this season. The senior has had setbacks this season, but he has had setbacks his entire college football career. From being the lowest ranked of all the receivers in his recruiting class to having to overcome injuries, Miller has been through a lot.
But he is still here; he is still playing, and he is still trying to break out and make his last year a memorable one.
The Sooners have played about 75 percent of their season, and the senior only has 79 total yards. Ask Miller and he will tell you that is not the kind of stat line he wanted or expected coming into this season. That being said, the four regular season games remaining for the Sooners are big ones.
Oklahoma still has a shot at the national title game if the team can win out. Sometimes, it does not take a career to be remembered. Sometimes, it might not even take an entire season.
One sure-fire way to be remembered for a long time around Sooner nation — win championships. If Dejuan Miller can keep playing at the level he played at last Saturday against a top-10 team, he will unquestionably see more playing time. Maybe he would have liked for it to happen earlier, but Miller may be clicking at just the right time to help Oklahoma win its eighth national title. Many would consider that enough of a legacy to leave.