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A Bulls bright spot? That would be Bryce Miller

The walk-on slot receiver, an East Lake High alumnus, has worked his way into USF’s starting lineup
USF walk-on receiver Bryce Miller (19) celebrates with guard William Atterbury (78) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, September 28, 2019. SMU defeated  USF, 48-21. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
USF walk-on receiver Bryce Miller (19) celebrates with guard William Atterbury (78) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, September 28, 2019. SMU defeated USF, 48-21. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Oct. 2, 2019

TAMPA ― His Division I-A breakthrough has been overshadowed by his team’s staggering mediocrity, but Bryce Miller is used to it.

The anonymity, that is. Dude’s been glossed over most of his career.

“That’s why I take pride in going out there and giving 100 percent every play, just because that’s who I am and that’s what I have to do,” USF’s 5-foot-9 walk-on slot receiver said. “I’m not 6-4 and run a 4.3, I’ve got to do the little things right.”

True to the spring and preseason projections of coaches and peers, Miller ― a transfer from NAIA blip Southeastern University in Lakeland ― has cracked the playing rotation and is producing in his first season of eligibility at USF.

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His seven receptions (one for a touchdown) rank third on the team. On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell said Miller will make his first start as a Bull on Saturday at Connecticut.

“He’s a hard-nosed football player, just a good football player,” Bell said. “Not the biggest, not the fastest, but man, he gets open.”

Problem is, that emergence has coincided with the Bulls’ southward spiral, robbing him of potential limelight.

Story of this 20-year-old’s life.

A dependable, disciplined route runner at East Lake High, Miller was overshadowed for most of his prep career by blue-chip teammates such as Artavis Scott (Clemson) and George Campbell (FSU, Penn State).

As a senior in 2016, he caught 56 passes for 916 yards and 16 touchdowns while helping lead East Lake (9-2) to a Class 7A region final, but received nary an overture from a big college.

He says he had never heard of Southeastern until the school reached out to him.

“I went to a practice and it looked pretty good,” Miller said. “And it was my only offer.”

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After a solid rookie year at Southeastern (24 catches, 319 yards), he transferred to USF and sat out the ’18 season per NCAA guidelines. Yet his work on the scout team last fall and with the first team in the spring and preseason turned heads.

“He kinda reminds me of like, I don’t wanna say Wes Welker, but kinda like an Adam Thielen, the way he runs his routes,” said Bulls middle linebacker Patrick Macon, referring to the Vikings’ Pro Bowl receiver who was undrafted out of Division II Minnesota State.

“He’s very precise. He just does everything right in his routes in order to get open, because he’s not the biggest.”

That precision brandished itself in the second half of Saturday’s 48-21 loss to SMU, when Miller ― operating out of the slot on the left side ― ran a textbook post route and snagged a Blake Barnett pass between two converging defenders for a 13-yard touchdown.

Miller’s coach at East Lake, Bob Hudson, was there to see it, though a majority of the sparse audience already had abandoned Raymond James Stadium by then and missed it.

Bryce Miller is used to it.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls