NORTH AUGUSTA — In the fast-paced play of North Augusta’s offense, senior tailback Vinny Miller didn’t have much time to make decisions.
Numerous times this season, quarterback Tyrell Hillary turned to hand off the ball and Miller completed his job to perfection.
“You only have time to think right before the play goes, so most of the time it’s just hit the hole as fast as you can,” Miller said. “After that instincts kick in.”
Those instincts helped make Miller The Augusta Chronicle’s South Carolina high school football player of the year. He led the area with 2,704 rushing yards on an average of 7.7 yards per carry. He scored 36 touchdowns on the ground, and three through the air.
A brand new offensive line was strong enough to give Miller the initial hole most of the time, and all it took was a burst of speed to get past the defensive linemen. But that’s where the linebackers waited.
“Then when you get to the next level, you don’t have much time to think about what kind of move you’re going to make on somebody,” he said. “It’s either your body knows or you’re not going to do anything.”
Miller said hours of practice helped train his body to respond correctly in those high-pressure moments. In the times when he also was able to escape the linebackers – which were often – the defense’s safeties and cornerbacks presented the final obstacle, requiring a different tactic.
“Linebackers – you can run them over,” he said. “But people in the secondary most of the time they’re going to go low, so it’s either you make a move or you try to run them over but you end up getting tripped up.”
Miller has shown that he can make the crazy, tackle-avoiding jukes, but he prefers a more direct approach.
“I’ve always been a hit-first kind of guy,” he said.
Miller was the poster child for an offense that averaged more than 36 points per game. The 12-win season saw the Yellow Jackets reach the Class AAAA Division II state semifinals with the area’s leading rusher (Miller), passer (Hillary) and receiver (Montez McGuire).
A year prior to all the offensive success, Miller wasn’t even a part of the spotlight.
“He had to be a good team player and wait his turn,” coach Dan Pippin said. “Last year we needed him as a pass rusher, and we had him at linebacker.”
Miller, who had always been a running back, moved to the defensive side of the ball during his junior year. He also punted and returned punts.
“I had to do something to get on the field,” he said. “I knew it was just a waiting game, and that was fine with me.”
The wait also allowed Miller slip under the radar of everyone from opposing teams to college scouts entering his senior year.
Miller said the lack of attention bordered on disrespect at times. He took full advantage. His breakout game came in late September, when he rushed for 350 yards and seven touchdowns on just 20 carries in a 61-24 win over Evans. Knights coach Marty Jackson said after the game it looked like his players were playing flag football as they tried unsuccessfully to tackle Miller.
“I feel like I was underestimated a lot, especially at the beginning,” Miller said. “I had a few great runs last year, but nobody really noticed or knew what I was about. People told me I was too small. I might look like I’m small, but I bring a lot with me.”