AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn remains optimistic freshman running back Malik Miller could return to action before the end of the season.
But just in case he doesn’t, there’s a chance Miller could retain all four years of eligibility heading into 2017.
Malzahn confirmed earlier this week that Miller, a true freshman from Madison, Ala., had surgery on his left knee Monday. Miller injured the knee in the third quarter of Auburn’s 58-7 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.
“There’s a good chance we can get a medical redshirt,” Malzahn said Thursday night on his weekly Tiger Talk radio show. “We’ll see what happens. He may be back quick and be able to help us, but we’ll do what’s best for him.”
Malzahn said earlier in the week he hoped to have Miller back by the end of the season. Brandon Marcello of 247Sports reported Miller was expected to miss “four to six weeks” following the surgery.
Miller has only appeared in three games this season for the Tigers, carrying the ball 16 times for 69 yards and 1 touchdown.
“Very unfortunate,” Malzahn said. “You talk about a player who was getting better each week and running ball extremely well, breaking tackles. He’s going to be out for a while.”
NCAA rules on medical redshirts — or “medical hardship waivers” — for Division I football state a player cannot receive a waiver if he has played more than 3 games or 30 percent of the season schedule, whichever is greater.
Miller, like injured defensive end Paul James III, is right at the cut-off point for such waivers.
With Miller out, Auburn will rely on fellow true freshman Kam Martin as well as a converted wide receiver to provide depth behind starter Kerryon Johnson and No. 2 running back Kamryn Pettway.
“(Martin) is a guy who’s getting better and better,” Malzahn said. “Stanton Truitt moved specifically to running back the week before, so that kind of worked out.”