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‘It’s a special place’: Ole Miss transfer Miles Battle embraced Utah and shored up the cornerback position

Since transferring to Utah from Ole Miss, the senior cornerback from Houston has embraced the team and the fanbase

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Utah cornerback Miles Battle stiff-arms Arizona State receiver Elijhah Badger after his interception during a Nov. 4 game.

Utah cornerback Miles Battle stiff-arms Arizona State receiver Elijhah Badger after his interception during a game on Nov. 4, 2023, in Salt Lake City. The Ole Miss transfer was a difference maker for the Utes this season.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

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After every Utah win this year, cornerback Miles Battle has posted a one-liner on social media.

Following the win over Baylor: “It must suck to B-U.”

After beating USC: “Its always been US, I hope now you C.”

After the victory against ASU: “AS soon as U count us out; its our time to eat.. Put your forks down.”

“A lot of that just comes naturally to me,” Battle said. “Me and some of my friends, my previous team (Ole Miss), we used to, on Fridays, we would just make up quick little one-liners to get at the other team, but I never really did anything with it. But then I did it here and it kind of took off, so then I just kept doing it.”

Since transferring to Utah from Ole Miss, the senior cornerback from Houston has embraced the team and fanbase, becoming one of the most visible Utah players on social media.

But if you would have asked him six years ago, he would have never imagined that he’d end up in Salt Lake City. In fact, Utah was one of the many schools that offered the four-star prospect a scholarship when he was at Cy Creek High, but he never took a visit to the U.

“Actually, I wish I would’ve took a visit here. I had an offer from here in high school. I wish I would’ve took the time out to come out here,” Battle said.

Instead, Battle committed to Ole Miss out of high school, playing five seasons, including four games his freshman year before redshirting for the Rebels. Recruited as a wide receiver in his first two seasons, totaling four catches for 38 yards in a reserve role, he switched to cornerback midway through his redshirt sophomore season in 2020.

That change paid off and got him on the field more often. He played 27 snaps, recording a pass breakup, against Vanderbilt and had 39 snaps in the 2021 Outback Bowl win over Indiana.

With an offseason at cornerback under his belt, he upped his game. He got a starting nod against Vanderbilt and recorded a career-high five tackles, plus a pass breakup. He played in all 13 games, totaling 22 tackles, nine pass breakups and a fumble recovery in 2021.

In 2022, he again played in all 13 games, starting three, and finished the year with 38 tackles, an interception, five pass breakups and a forced fumble, which came on a goal-line punchout in the Texas Bowl and resulted in a touchback.

After four years in Oxford, he had his sights set on Salt Lake City, in part because of Utah’s reputation for developing cornerbacks for the NFL.

“If you would’ve asked my younger self in high school if I’d be playing corner or even be at Utah, period, I probably would’ve looked at you crazy,” Battle said. “But God has a plan for everybody and I feel like I’ve just been taking my best shot at what he’s put out for me.”

Whether he makes the NFL remains to be seen, but Battle did leave his mark on his teammates, the university and the fan base.

Though Zemaiah Vaughn and JaTravis Broughton started at the two outside cornerback positions, Battle still got plenty of time on the field, playing a career-high 415 snaps — nearly as many as Broughton did.

“I think he’s improved a ton, especially since when he first arrived on campus. He was primarily a receiver his career ... and I think he’s made a very nice transition and has played good football for us this year. Proud of him,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

If you want to improve, you’ve got to be coachable, and Battle was coachable. During fall camp, cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah said he was yelling at Battle, “every period” of practice.

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Utah Utes cornerback Miles Battle warms up for the Utah-UCLA college football game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“I’m yelling constantly at Miles,” Shah said.

Battle responded to that coaching, taking it in stride, and put in lots of work in the film room to learn Utah’s defensive system.

“I’ve seen his knowledge of our system grow exponentially, and it’s been quick,” Shah said this earlier this month. “Miles studies. He likes film. He enjoys being critiqued. He wants to know how he can get better. So whether you’re sending him snapshots of coverages, videos, whatever it is, he’s going to digest it. So I love that he’s a consummate student.”

That study and effort in practice paid off, and Battle helped shore up the Utah cornerbacks room this season.

An interception on a jump ball throw by Arizona State Jacob Conover in Utah’s 55-3 win got Battle his first Utah interception, and he also had two pass breakups in Utah’s 34-14 win over Cal. He was one of the most sure tacklers on the team, never missing a tackle this season.

“I’d say just in my overall technique,” Battle responded when asked where he feels like he’s improved most the season. “Where I came from, I had different coaches every year, so being taught different things, but here there’s a great way of doing things and everything (Shah’s) taught us, taught me, I feel like it’s going to translate to the next level.”

Overall, Pro Football Focus graded Battle as Utah’s second-best outside cornerback this season, grading out at a 66.6 overall. He finished the year with 28 tackles (0.5 for loss), an interception, and two pass breakups.

“He’s grown by leaps and bounds in his short time with us,” Shah said.

Battle has been all-in on the program, and Salt Lake City, wholeheartedly.

“Coming here, it’s a special place overall. Not even just the football community, but just the community in itself. The people, they really care about the team and everybody around,” Battle said.

Battle has also become one of the program’s best ambassadors, writing two posts on social media this week that sum up his experience in Salt Lake City.

“Utah Update: Man i love this team, these fans, these coaches and this community. Wouldnt trade this season and experience for the world!!”

“Its a special place out here in the mountains. I encourage everyone to come see it.”

In case you missed it

I’m tracking the Utes roster moves as the transfer portal opens up on Dec. 4, as players decide whether to stay or leave for the NFL draft, and early signing day commences on Dec. 20.

Here’s who’s staying at Utah, who’s leaving, and a look at the incoming 2024 players, updated daily.

From the archives

Extra points

  • Utah quarterback Nate Johnson will transfer (Deseret News)
  • The definitive final future Big 12 power rankings — who came out on top? (Deseret News)
  • Fifth-string quarterback Luke Bottari scores two touchdowns in Utah’s 23-17 Pac-12 finale win over Colorado (Deseret News)

Up next

  • Nov. 30 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Hawaii | @ Salt Lake City (Delta Center)
  • Nov. 29-Dec. 2 | All day | Swim and dive | US Open | @ Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Dec. 2 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. BYU | @ Salt Lake City
  • Dec. 5 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Southern Utah | @ Salt Lake City

Times MST

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Utah cornerback Miles Battle was recruited by Utah coming out of high school in Houston, but ended up committing to Ole Miss. In hindsight he wishes that he had made a recruiting trip to Utah when the Utes were first pursuing him.

Rick Scuteri, Associated Press