SAN JOSE, Calif. — If Christian Miller has any say in the decision, he will be on the field Monday night at Levi’s Stadium fighting alongside his Crimson Tide teammates for the 2019 national title. He doesn’t care for how long or in what capacity. He just wants to play in the game.
The issue is Alabama’s outside linebacker pulled his hamstring during the semifinal game a week ago and is still recovering.
“I never was ruled out,” Miller said Saturday at Alabama’s media day in the SAP Center.
No, but he hasn’t gotten the go-ahead from his coach just yet either.
“Christian Miller is questionable for the game,” Nick Saban said. “He hasn’t been able to do a lot in practice. We’ll sort of see what he can do (Saturday) and sort of further evaluate his circumstance and see if he can be effective enough to contribute in a game.”
Miller played in every game this season. The 6-foot-4, 244-pound pass rusher has 36 total tackles, including 11.5 for a loss and 8.5 sacks. He has a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
Players like Jamey Mosley and Eyabi Anoma will likely be called on to step up if Miller is sidelined.
The Crimson Tide is already down two linebackers with Terrell Lewis and Chris Allen out. Both have ACL injuries.
Lewis hinted at a return on Twitter before the postseason started, but he will not be making that return this season.
“It kind of was somewhat known,” Lewis said. “It was just more so trying to see how far we can push the limit to see whether I’d be able to play or not. But as far as me being able to go out there and play to the best of my ability and be strong enough to hold at the point of attack and be able to deal with their offensive linemen, I don’t think right now I’m ready for that.”
Lewis is a junior and plans to return next season. Allen is just a freshman.
Miller, one the other hand, is a redshirt senior. He has played in 45 games in his Alabama career. If he plays Monday, No. 46 will be his last.
“One way or another, this is going to work out,” Miller said. “I have complete faith and trust. You’re going to have to pull me off the field. I’m ready to give everything I’ve got.”
Wide receiver Justyn Ross remembers getting an offer from Alabama as a sophomore in high school. He considered the Crimson Tide all the way up until the morning of National Signing Day two years later. He had a hard decision to make.
Ultimately, Ross chose Clemson — aka the team Alabama will face for the national championship.
“I had to realize the coaching stability that Clemson has had over the years,” Ross said. “That kind of just narrowed it down for me.”
Even though he grew up a Florida Gators fan, Ross is originally from Phenix City, Alabama. In fact, according to 247 Sports, Ross was the No. 1 recruit in Alabama. He was nationally ranked as the No. 7 wide receiver and No. 45 prospect overall.
Ross was the first top-ranked player from Alabama to sign with the Tigers and just the second to not sign with the Crimson Tide since 2005.
“We thought he was one of the best players in Alabama a year ago and certainly recruited him with as much enthusiasm as possible,” Saban said last week on the CFP teleconference. “We just came up short. It’s no surprise to me that he’s having an outstanding year, and we’d love to have him here, but we’ve got to prepare to play against him.”
As a true freshman, Ross has played in all 14 of the Tigers’ games. He has caught 40 passes for 847 yards and eight touchdowns. He averages 21.2 yards per reception and 60.5 yards per game.
To put those numbers in perspective, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle – same year, same position – has 43 grabs for 823 yards and seven scores in just as many games. He’s averaging 19.14 yards per reception and 58.8 yards per game.
UA linebacker Markail Benton was a teammate of Ross at Central High School.
Regardless of all the history, Monday’s opponent doesn’t matter to Ross.
“People would think it’s extra motivation just because it’s where I’m from,” Ross said. “But it’s not really. It’s just a regular game to me now.”
Jacobs will play
Junior running back Josh Jacobs is expected to play during the national championship game Monday. Jacobs wasn’t spotted during the open portion of practice Thursday, but traveled with the team to California. He practiced earlier in the week and again Saturday afternoon.
He declined to say why he was absent Thursday.
“It’s funny how you all come up with stuff,” he said. “I heard some people said I failed a drug test. If I failed a drug test, I wouldn’t be able to play in last week’s game. … I’ve never done anything wrong since I’ve been at Alabama. I’ve never been in trouble or anything like that.”
Jacobs led the team in rushing in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, posting 15 carries for 98 yards. He also added four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. For the season, he has 593 rushing yards and leads the team with 11 touchdowns. He also has 19 receptions for 231 yards and three touchdowns.
Sports Writer Ben Jones contributed to this notebook. Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.