Sakamoto: 49ers Bruce Miller No Stranger To Position Change Or Body Analysis


He’s been here before. A player who excelled at one position asked to switch to another. That has been the storyline surrounding San Francisco 49ers TE Bruce Miller since entering the NFL. A two-time Conference USA Player of the Year recipient at defensive end, Miller was projected by many NFL scouts to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.

However, that wasn’t the case. 49ers GM Trent Baalke and his scouting department had other plans. Going against conventional wisdom, Baalke drafted Miller in the seventh-round (No. 211) in hopes of converting the pass-rush specialist into a backfield mauler in the run game.


It’s hard enough transitioning to the NFL game. It’s exponentially harder when you’re learning a new position on the opposite side of the ball. In what Jim Harbaugh would label as a “football player,” Miller thrived under Harbaugh’s power run scheme, while playing a vital role in the team’s 2012 Super Bowl run.

Miller was so good at fullback, the team rewarded him with a three-year contract, extending his tenure with the team via the 2017 season. All of this despite coming off a fractured scapula.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Fast forward to today, and Miller finds himself in familiar territory. Learning a new position as the team’s tight end. If you read my previous article on what’s required for the position under HC Chip Kelly, then you would understand that versatility is paramount.

For this reason, I can’t help but think that Miller has the inside track at winning the starting role.

Bruce and I talk about a lot of things. Which is why it doesn’t surprise me that he’s making the switch closer to the line of scrimmage. Why? Because back in high school he played both fullback and wide receiver for the Woodstock Wolverines.

In 2014, Miller revealed to me that there’s no greater feeling than delivering a mean stiff-arm after making a catch.

“I used that move a lot back in high school [Woodstock HS] when I played fullback and wide receiver,” Miller told me with a smile from ear to ear. “There’s no feeling like it, aside from lighting someone up.”

The stiff-arm has become one of Miller’s signature moves. Just watch as he violently delivered one to Pro Bowl ILB C.J. Mosley sending him backwards like a rag doll! (see video above).

However, in order to play the position requires precise route running, fluid feet, and good hands. Miller checks off all the boxes. If you watch my video from yesterday’s first OTA practice above, you will notice that Miller is the cream of the crop when it comes to sinking his hips.

But playing a different position requires ‘body analysis,’ and Miller is no exception. Shortly after practice concluded, Miller told us that he shredded 15 pounds in order to play the position. But again, he’s been here before.

During the NFL combine, Miller ran a 4.85 40-yard dash while playing at a stocky 254 pounds. The extra bulk was needed to show scouts he was big enough to set the edge as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Just a few weeks later, Miller cut down to the high 230’s in order to run a 4.5 40-yard dash at his pro day.

“I had to cut the weight to run faster,” Miller told me.

I asked Miller what’s the heaviest he’s played at and Miller said, “I was around 265.” Talk about dedication, hard work, and team player.

The 49ers clearly need all the help they can get on the offensive side of the ball. A unit that finished near the bottom in almost every offensive category, a healthy dose of Miller just may be what the doctor ordered.

In a four-way camp battle which includes TE Vance McDonald, TE Garrett Celek, TE Blake Bell, and Miller, it will be interesting to see who reigns supreme atop the depth chart Week 1.

In 77 regular season games, Miller has racked up 76 receptions for 734 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.