Milliner Hopes To Get Head Start

DeMarcus Milliner has big hands. But when he showed them to sportswriters Wednesday, he said his fingers were inadequate--inadequate, that is, to show the thickness of the Alabama playbook. "It's pretty thick," he said. "All the things Alabama does. That's why they won a championship."



The Alabama playbook is one of the reasons Demarcus Milliner enrolled at The University in January. He wants to "get the plays down so when I get on the field, I know what I'm doing."

Milliner, a safety at Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, projects as a cornerback for Coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide. Milliner, 6-1, 180, was a five-star prospect by Scout.com. He is one of the reasons Alabama had one of the nation's top-ranked recruiting classes.

As a senior, Milliner made 78 tackles, had three interceptions, broke up 10 passes, and caused two fumbles. As a kick return man he returned one kickoff for a touchdown. He also had some offensive playing time, catching five passes for 83 yards and a touchdown and having 51 rushes for 487 yards and seven touchdowns.

Scout.com Recruiting Expert Andrew Bone said, "Milliner is the number one-ranked player in Alabama, and the number one-ranked cornerback prospect in the country. He has excellent speed and ball skills. He has great recovery speed and flies to the football."

Milliner is one of 29 Crimson Tide signees, and one of 11 (including three grayshirts from last year and a junior college transfer) who are enrolled for the spring semester.

Saban said that he "does not encourage or discourage" a player to enroll early, even though he said it is an advantage to the school to have early enrollees. Those players who enter Alabama in January will be going through the off-season program and spring practice.

Milliner made the decision in August to graduate from high school in December and make the move to Tuscaloosa. "It was kind of a touch decision, but I did it to better myself, to go on and get started ahead of time and get ahead of others who are coming. After I saw Alabama was going to lose six or seven DBs, I thought it would be good to come in early, get started with college life, and start to become a part of the football team."

So far, so good, he said. "It has been great being here, going around with the team," Milliner said. "The players have been great, showing you love. You get acquainted with all those guys, just doing the things they have already done.

"I watch film and look at the playbook. I haven't really gotten a chance to talk to the (departing defensive backs like Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson) because they have been busy with the Senior Bowl and getting ready for pro days and combines. They've been working hard themselves, so I haven't had a chance to sit down and talk to them yet."

Like many top prospects, Milliner did not grow up as a fan of a particular college. He said his parents liked both Alabama and Auburn. As for Milliner, "I wasn't really a fan in high school. I just loved to watch football."

As it turns out, Alabama did have some advantages over the competition. Milliner chose Alabama over Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Part of it was Nick Saban, who works as the cornerbacks coach in Alabama practices.

"With Coach Saban being my position coach, that was a great chance for me to learn what I need to learn to go to the next level, the NFL," Milliner said. "For him to already be a coach in the NFL, he knows what players should be expected to do when they get to the next level."

Additionally, Milliner's father, James, played football at Holtville High School for Sonny Smart, the father of Crimson Tide Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart. Kirby Smart was primary recruiter of Milliner.

Milliner thinks this year's Bama recruiting haul "is a great class. There are a whole lot of great players coming in. It was a great day."

Milliner has already been a part of helping Alabama recruit. He had conversations with prospects. "You try to get great players to come in," he said. "You don't want to line up and play against them. You'd rather they be on your team."

Milliner had a simple message for prospects. "If you want to win championships, Alabama is the place to be," he said. "If you want to develop into one of the great players, Alabama is the place to be."

Great players means competition, which suits Milliner fine.

"That will be a great thing to see and to be a part of with all the great players out there," he said. "We're just going to try to do what we do best, which is play football."

He said he hopes to be "at the very top" of the depth chart. "But if I'm not, I'm going to work until I get there." Milliner said he had also talked to Bama Special Teams Coordinator Bobby Williams about the possibility of returning kicks.

This won't be the last you hear of Milliner being recruited. DeMarcus has a younger brother, Pat Milliner, who will become one of the state's outstanding seniors in 2010 at Stanhope Elmore.

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