When Coynis Miller arrived at Jackson-Olin (Ala.) last November, he was merely a shell of what he has become.
His new head coach, Tim Vakakes, saw an athlete capable of doing, well, pretty much anything he wanted on an athletic field — so long as he put in the work to get there. Miller’s previous stint at East Lawrence (Ala.) didn’t foster the killer work ethic needed to excel at the high school level, or develop Division I relationships.
IN PLAINS SIGHT: Herb Hand to help with Nashville duo?
Upon arrival to Jackson-Olin, Vakakes knew exactly what needed to happen to begin Miller’s next-level preparations. He partnered him with Auburn commit Tadarian Moultry during team workouts.
“He wasn’t used to doing what we do on a daily basis. So I put him on TD’s rack. TD is going to hold him accountable,” Vakakes told SEC Country. “Plus, he sees TD as a very good football player. He sees him as our hardest worker also. So he can’t slouch. He’s developing the work ethic. He’s a really good kid.”
The relationship with Moultry has helped Miller grow from a 250-pound defensive lineman to 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds of bonafide athletic talent. Miller can dunk a basketball with ease. Despite his size, he was clocked at 4.63 seconds during his most recent 40-yard dash. His ability is so obvious, Vakakes chooses to use Miller in goal line packages on offense, as a quarterback or fullback, where he has accounted for 10 touchdowns in his junior year.
Auburn recognized all of that early on.
The Tigers visited Jackson-Olin in May, when defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner swung by to pay Moultry a visit. One look at Miller — despite only holding a Bowling Green offer — and Auburn fired away with an offer, which came as a “surprise” to Miller.
Alabama, Michigan, Florida and Ole Miss have followed with offers.
“They met him, they knew about him, but then they saw him,” Vakakes said, snapping his finger to indicate the immediacy of the offer.
For now, Miller ranks as the 14th-best player in the state of Alabama for the Class of 2018. He’s the 40th-ranked defensive lineman and the No. 498 player overall. But those are early rankings, and his high school coach — and offer sheet — seems to think Miller will make a jump as he progresses.
Based on Miller’s athleticism, Vakakes went to extremes describing his junior defensive lineman. When his every-down work ethic catches up, it’ll be a dangerous combination.
“His potential is elite among elite. But his motor isn’t always matched. His highlight reel is going to be crazy. But when you watch a whole game, it’s not as eye-opening,” Vakakes said. “His motor just isn’t elite yet. But I told him. When your motor matches your talent level, you’re looking at a top 5, top 10 player in the country.”
It’s getting there, and the daily reps with Moultry by his side helps the cause dramatically. Miller also gets help from Moultry on how to approach the recruiting process.
Moultry isn’t “the type of person,” Miller said, to try to sway him toward Auburn. Miller said the Tigers do a good enough job of that themselves. Rather, Moultry helps him deal with the outside noise that often comes from recruiters and opponents.
“He tells me what to expect. I know how to take it,” Miller said. “It just tells me how people want to talk, how they want to talk bad and stuff. He tells me just to ignore it.”
— Benjamin Wolk (@benjaminwolk) October 13, 2016
Miller has no intention of rushing his recruiting process. He could decide before his senior year, or he could wait until Signing Day. He takes the Moultry approach on that one, saying he can’t get to “plan B before taking care of plan A.” Plan A is his high school team, which is on the verge of making the state playoffs for the first time since 1999.
But he’s deep in recruiting discussions, nonetheless. He talks daily with all of the aforementioned schools. Miller has a particularly early affection for Florida, he said, but his only stadium visits have been to Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi State.
The trips to Auburn came for the Clemson and LSU games. He plans on attending the Arkansas matchup as well.
Auburn is doing a solid job selling itself early in Miller’s process.
“They’ve been playing real good to me, real solid. They’ve had some really big games they’ve played in, and they haven’t let anybody score points on them, so that’s good. LSU was crazy,” Miller said.
Auburn’s turnaround has impressed its latest target from Jackson-Olin High School.
“I like to look at the leadership, how they take on things,” Miller said. “If something goes wrong, how are they going to fix it? Are they going to lay down? That’s what I really look at.”