Houston, Miller ready to make up for lost season at UF

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New Florida linebackers coach Christian Robinson has plenty of talent to work with. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

It’s no secret Florida’s linebackers struggled as a whole in 2017, but it wasn’t due to subpar recruiting of the position.

Not one of the four linebackers signed by Randy Shannon and UF’s coaching staff in the 2017 class saw the field last season, leaving the program devoid of depth as the Gators struggled to a 4-7 record.

But as UF looks to rebuild under Dan Mullen, the linebacker unit seems poised to make a big leap in 2018.

In addition to the return of Nick Smith, who redshirted as a freshman due to injury, the Gators will bolster their linebacker depth with the return of in-state playmakers James Houston and Ventrell Miller.

Houston and Miller missed their freshman seasons due to their alleged involvement in the credit card fraud scandal that derailed the 2017 season before it could begin. With a considerable time spent away from the game — Houston’s hiatus from football spanned nearly two years due to an injury in his senior year of high school — it would appear the two have an uphill climb to regain playing time in UF’s rotation this season.

If you ask Houston and Miller about the affect the suspensions had on their progression, however, the answer might come as a surprise.

Although the time away from the field and the game he grew to love was no easy task, Houston said the suspension helped him undergo some much-needed maturing off of the field.

“I kind of had to grow up a little bit. I had to look at my life and re-evaluate where I was going and how I was thinking and going about things,” Houston said. “I feel like I’m a different person. I’m just hungry to play. I haven’t played in like two years. I’m ready to go.”

He believes the transition to Mullen’s leadership has helped the team grow closer together, and that the linebackers are far from the only position group to see an increase in maturity.

“Since Mullen’s come in here and (strength and conditioning coach Nick) Savage has gotten a handle on us, we definitely have become closer,” Houston said. “We definitely have matured a lot more. We’re just taking things way more serious.”

Miller, a Lakeland native who had scholarship offers from 35 programs coming out of Kathleen High, concurred that the season-long suspension helped rather than hinder his development.

“It was a humbling experience. I mean I wanted to be on the field like that, so it humbled me,” Miller said. “I feel like it made me a better player.”

But don’t just take it from the horse’s mouth: junior linebacker David Reese bestowed Houston and Miller with an impressive compliment regarding the duo’s future at Florida.

“They are two great linebackers. I feel like that’s going to be the future of this defense,” Reese said. “I feel like those guys, Ventrell is good in coverage and Houston is also a very fast guy and can get to the ball very quick.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. It seems both of thee players chose to learn and grow and improve, and that is to their credit. Everyone makes mistakes, but the key to success it learning from our mistakes.

  2. no I’m not with you guys on the what you do with life stuff, what little talent I or most readers have, did not chose to do what they did. also, they either did or did not commit credit card fraud, I’m weary of this being called alleged when every one knows they committed credit card fraud. I’m not with david reese, in that if this is the future of gator football, I really need to go elsewhere. these guys let everyone down, and it cost jobs, money. how do we know the words about maturity are not just words, once a player has demonstrated his level of conduct.
    coach mullen kept them, ok, but I don’t want to read about them, if they play I don’t want to have to cheer for them. If over 5 years they prove something, ok, but no way, not now. I wish the sun wouldn’t waste space on these individuals at this time. I probably shouldn’t care, in that most of these hype articles are for sports information researchers if the gators get on tv down the road and these guys contribute, which I pray we have better players than these should that moment arise. There is a place for players like these, florida doesn’t need to take the risk, we can get guys just as good that aren’t going to be in the police reports.
    for now I want to see Jackson at linebacker and other guys that never dreamed of doing what these two individuals did. same for the Jordan scarlett for Heisman and the other ones.
    Attending the university of florida is not to be taken lightly imo, these opportunities are for people that teach the rest of us what it takes.

    • Because of the many second chances the good Lord has given me, I’m all for forgiveness and second chances. The part I always struggle with is, sincerity. We don’t know these kids personally or know their hearts. Are they truly sorry, understand the brevity of their actions, learned a tough life lesson and are maturing into high character young men or are they sorry they got caught, missed playing football and will say anything to placate the media so we all move on? The only proof “is in the pudding” or in their actions.

      What would happen if one of these guys asked CDM to speak to the media and said something like this:

      “I’m terribly sorry for the poor decision I made. It was a selfish, greedy and disrespectful act that continues to embarrass my family, my team, my school and myself. I wish to express my deepest regret and apologize to those I stole from and those my actions embarrassed. There are no words to make up for what I did, all I can do is move forward and show through my actions, on and especially off the field, that I’ve learned from my mistakes. My goal and promise is that every action I make from this day forward is to show that I am not the type of man my actions suggest and that by the time my college days are over, people will remember me not for my play but for my character and how represented the University of Florida. In the end, I don’t want people to forget what I have done but to be remembered as an example of how a life can be changed through a second chance.

      I would cheer like crazy for that kid. Instead, all we hear is how hungry they are for missing a year of football and how they are going to make up for it on the field. I’d love for someone to say they’d make up for it off the field, which to me shows true maturity. HOWEVER, time will tell with these guys. I’m not saying they haven’t learned, aren’t sincere in their apology and aren’t otherwise great kids…it’s just he pessimist in me that likes to see their maturity, not just hear about it. I’m done, bash away.