IOWA CITY, Iowa — Ezra Miller heads to all-star camps with a single thought.
“My goal is to establish my dominance,” Miller said. “That is just my thing. I like being the dominant person.”
He certainly did that at The Opening San Francisco regional, taking home offensive lineman MVP honors on March 4.
For Miller, his performance at the Nike event was just the start. The 4-star Iowa commit heads to an Under Armour event in May and wants to use the national camp circuit to show he is the alpha male in the Class of 2019.
“I hate to say that he expects it,” Ridge View (Holstein, Iowa) High School football coach Dale Tokheim said, “but he knows he belongs in that group and is confident in that.”
— Ezra Miller (@EzraMiller75) March 4, 2018
‘I beat the crap out of kids’
It’s not an arrogance thing with Miller. He tips his hat to any defender who beats him.
But Miller usually is one of the biggest linemen, standing 6-foot-7, 310 pounds. He’s also one of the strongest and most athletic. It’s a hard combination to beat, and it’s why he is ranked No. 69 overall in the Class of 2019 by 247Sports.
“If he gets a hold of you at our level right now it’s over,” Tokheim said. “As an offensive lineman, he is going to drive you 20 or 30 yards downfield, if not pancake you.”
Iowa high schools produce a limited amount of Division I players, so Miller heads to camps like The Opening. He loves the competition. He doesn’t check who is attending the events.
Miller just heads to the field to identify the superior players.
“I beat the crap out of kids,” Miller said. “I show I’m better than them. At least I try to. If a kid is better than me I will respect it.”
Miller earned an invitation to the 2018 Opening because of his performance at a Nike event in Charlotte last year. San Francisco fit best in his schedule between high school sports seasons. Plus, it allowed him to face different linemen than he sees in the Midwest.
He doesn’t head to the camps just to assert his dominance. He uses each as a learning tool, trying to find ways to improve his technique.
Miller pulls coaches aside at the camps, asking what they think he needs to work on. He uses every new technique the coaches throw out. He really took to the way the San Francisco coaches taught hand placement, instructing campers to aim in the lower rib cage on initial contact.
“Then they almost told us to attack lower because it will be a lot harder for the defense to make a move,” Miller said. “Attack low and then as you progress through you can work your way up a little bit.”
‘They felt incredible’
The main event at any camp is the one-on-one drill between offensive and defensive linemen. At The Opening, players went through an initial round of battles with five offensive and five defensive linemen advancing to the finals.
Often, players and coaches scream and holler during the competition. Miller, though, tries to remain calm and balanced, focusing on fundamentals.
“I use my technique well and I try to hit people really freaking hard,” Miller said. “That’s usually what I do and it works out pretty well.”
He made the San Francisco finals, but it wasn’t his best work. A defender beat him on his second rep. He overset on his third, allowing his opponent to gain inside position. His problem was his footwork. The coaches told him to shorten his strides.
#TheOpening San Francisco | FINAL 5
— Final 5 (@Final5Linemen) March 5, 2018
The adjustments worked. In one finals rep, the defensive end went inside and Miller sent him down the line. The other two times, they attacked outside and Miller used their momentum to carry them away from the quarterback and nab MVP honors.
“The only way I can describe them is they felt incredible for me,” Miller said. “I’ve watched the film a little bit. They look really good and hopefully I can keep stepping like that.”
His next chance to shine will be in Chicago. He attended the Under Armour camp with a sprained ankle last season. Now he’s wants to show the coaches how he moves when healthy.
Ideally, it will be a repeat of San Francisco, where he learned his alpha male status also applies to the West Coast.
“Going there and showing them that Iowa boys can play felt really freaking good,” Miller said. “It seemed like half of them didn’t know where Iowa is.”