ROCKINGHAM — With Dante Miller competing in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas football game on Saturday, it gave Richmond head coach Bryan Till and members of his coaching staff a reason to visit South Carolina earlier this week.
The Shrine Bowl is a high school all-star game played at Wofford College (S.C.) that features top seniors from both North Carolina and South Carolina. Miller, who was one of 44 players chosen to represent the state in early October, has been practicing in Spartanburg since the top of the week with “a smile on his face the whole time.”
“He was enjoying it. He talked to us during water breaks and would come over and see us in between practices,” Till said. “He’s by far the smallest guy out there, but he’s not overmatched. It’s obvious that he’s able to compete at that level.”
Making the trip with Till early Monday was Raider offensive coordinator Brad Denson, and then came junior varsity head coach Patrick Hope, quarterbacks coach Jay Jones, wide receivers coach Andy Shuler and defensive line coach Milton Swinnie on Monday night.
While there, they were able to watch Miller — who just ran for more than 1,327 yards and 19 touchdowns with in his final season — practice alongside “some high-caliber athletes” and network with other coaches from both the high-school and college ranks.
Till and Denson went to meet with Will Shuler, brother of Andy Shuler and tight ends coach at North Greenville University, in order to check out that college’s facilities and “talk things pertaining to football” on Monday. They then visited with Furman linebackers coach Peter Lusk and had the opportunity to watch some film and learn things from a program that’s “very similar” to where Richmond is at this point in time.
On Tuesday, all six coaches who made the trip got to watch both practices while being surrounded by many like-minded individuals who also love the game of football.
“The biggest takeaway are those relationships and how important they are in this business. You have to constantly work on building new relationships, and also build on the old ones you have,” Till explained. “There were a lot of college coaches on Tuesday in particular…which helps with getting a kid recruited — when you know you’ve got a kid who’s special.”
Richmond’s coaching staff didn’t have to worry too much about spreading the word on Miller, however, as his talents were on display throughout the week. Till said that Miller — a James Madison University (Va.) commit — caught a bubble-screen pass during one of the practices, made one cut, and would’ve taken it to the house had it been a real game.
Although he’s primarily a running back, the North Carolina coaches have also been using Miller’s speed as an asset in the passing game. The future JMU Duke lined up in the slot and as the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers this week.
“He’s getting to do a lot of different things and it’s great to see him with that confidence,” Till added. “It’s one thing to see him play against Wake Forest and Scotland this past year, but it’s also great (for him) to get out there with another compilation of really good football players and show that he belongs.”
Even if the Raiders aren’t fortunate enough to have one of their players selected to future Shrine Bowls, Till hopes to show his face in Spartanburg for at least a day. The strength and conditioning clinic that was held at Dorman High School — or the Clemson football team’s first day of bowl practices — on Tuesday night was something he would’ve enjoyed attending.
The 39-year old coach received his undergraduate degree in excercise sports science from the University of Georgia and then started his career as the strength and conditioning coach at Athens Academy (Ga.), so there was more than likely a ton of useful information that he could’ve brought back to Richmond County.
“With the strength clinic and everything going on down there, I think it’s worthwhile to go down on Tuesday and build those relationships,” he added. “But we had a good time. I’ll go back down Saturday for the game.”
The Shrine Bowl kickoff is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.