Veteran Florida linebacker Ventrell Miller out for season

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida senior linebacker Ventrell Miller is out for the season following arm surgery.

Florida redshirt senior linebacker Ventrell Miller had surgery Monday to repair a torn biceps tendon suffered in UF’s 42-20 victory against the University of South Florida, The Sun confirmed Thursday.

Miller is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season, although the timely operation may allow the Lakeland native to return to the field before the postseason. 

The loss of Miller means the Gators will be without their leading tackler from last season for Florida’s highly anticipated battle with No. 1-ranked Alabama, and it also spells trouble from a leadership standpoint. 

However, Miller’s fellow mainstays on the defense are adamant they can atone for his absence — that is, if someone among the ranks employs the “next man up” mantra.” 

“Ventrell, he's a great guy and a great teammate, great leader, but I feel like we shouldn't have an issue picking up with that leadership role,” Miller’s fellow redshirt senior, defensive lineman Zachary Carter, said. “Guys just have to, you know, they have to step up." 

In the build-up to the game, his direct replacement remains unknown, but UF undoubtedly has options at the position. 

In Miller’s wake, the Gators are expected to lean on a revolving door of linebackers, including senior Amari Burney, junior Mohamoud Diabate and redshirt sophomore Ty’Ron Hopper. The loss of Miller could also result in an increase in playing time for the underclassmen, such as Jeremiah “Scooby” Williams, Derek Wingo or Chief Borders.

“My role’s going to get a little bigger, but I’m here for the challenge, for sure,” Hopper said. “I’m focusing on getting better every week.”

Prior to playing more on the edge this season, Diabate spent much of the 2020 campaign as Miller’s back-up at the middle linebacker spot, making him a potential replacement to start. 

And it isn’t as if Miller is entirely absent from the program either — he may be unable to contribute on the field, but Miller is still in the building and able to contribute with the game plan, said Diabate. 

“I feel great, our ability to be able to fill in for him,” Diabate said. “The thing is, Ventrell will still be around this week, Ventrell will still be around to make sure everything’s good.”

Furthermore, the loss of Miller makes the decision to move sixth-year senior Jeremiah Moon to inside linebacker look even wiser than it already did after UF’s first two games. Moon would start at linebacker against FAU in the season-opener, and he would ultimately get in on six tackles against the Owls. He followed that performance up by registering five tackles and a tackle for a loss against the Bulls, making it all the more likely Moon sees the field in abundance against Alabama. 

“They’re just giving me the freedom to roam around,” Moon, speaking to the media after the victory over USF, said. “I’m having fun with wherever they put me, and I’m just trying to help the team, so that’s really my main focus. Whatever they need me to do, I’m willing to do it.”

Although Moon admits that, despite having arrived at Florida back in 2016, he had much to learn when it came to adjusting to his new position this offseason. 

“Yeah, I mean, it was a learning curve,” he said, “but you’ve just got to put time and effort into what you really want and good things will happen.”

Florida’s hoping the preseason preparation of Moon and his fellow linebackers will lessen the negative impact of Miller’s absence, if not negate it entirely. 

“All the snaps that I play, all that snaps that Burney will play, that Moon will play, we feel confident in what we're doing. We exchange, we rotate so much that it's like what, like our coaches always say, we don’t have really any starters because we're just all older we’ve all played a lot,” Diabate said. “So Ventrell being on the injury report, it doesn’t really affect much. We feel like we can fill in, we can plug in for him.”