As such, the San Francisco 49ers are going to make that redshirt year count for 7th round pick Bruce Miller, as they're asking the two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year to make the conversion from defensive end to fullback, according to this report from Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Few prospects can claim Miller's level of consistency and dominance at the collegiate level, but at 6-1, 254 pounds, he lacks the size to duplicate his success off the edge at UCF in the NFL. An all-conference selection each year of his career with the Golden Knights, Miller left Central Florida as the school's all-time leader with 33.5 sacks. He also posted 57.5 tackles for loss and recorded six forced fumbles over his career.
Though shorter than scouts would like as a pass rusher, Miller's hustle, physicality and surprising all-around athleticism made him one of the more intriguing "Mr. Versatility" types of the 2011 draft class. He was scouted as a defensive end and linebacker by most teams, but a few asked him to work out as a fullback at UCF's Pro Day. NFLDraftScout.com rated Miller as the No. 22 OLB of the 2011 draft. The 49ers clearly made versatility an emphasis in their 2011 draft selections, taking Missouri pass rusher Aldon Smith (who played DE, DT and even some OLB) in the first round, South Carolina defensive back Chris Culliver in the third (played CB and S while with the Gamecocks) and USC wideout Ron Johnson (also a standout returner) in the sixth.
As Branch's article points out, Miller's acclimation to the offensive side of the ball has had its high and low points. While Miller is essentially learning a new language in terms of offensive terminology, he has already earned the praise of his most important teammate -- incumbent starting quarterback Alex Smith.
"The thing I've been most impressed with is just his athleticism," Smith said. "To see a guy who has been playing D-end his whole career come out and be that fluid catching the football and running routes is impressive. It just kind of caught my eye from Day 1, seeing him running around catching. Just how natural it was for him."