Utah cornerback Miles Battle has aspirations to play in the NFL.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior transferred from the University of Mississippi of the Southeastern Conference to Utah of the Pac-12 because of the Utes’ culture and their track record for sending defensive backs into the NFL.

“I just knew that they had a reputation of putting DBs in the league. When they gave me the call, I knew that in my head already. So I took the visit and fell in love with it.” — Utah defensive back Mile Battle

Battle had noticed the number of players the program has sent to the NFL over the years — and wants to follow in their footsteps.

“Just the history of DBs being prepared for the league and the amount of DBs they put in the league here,” Battle said. “I just knew that they had a reputation of putting DBs in the league. When they gave me the call, I knew that in my head already. So I took the visit and fell in love with it.” 

This spring, he’s learning from cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley

“Coach Shah and coach Scalley’s defense, I believe, will prepare me the best for the next level,” he said.

Utah is hoping that Battle can help replace All-America cornerback Clark Phillips III, who declared for the NFL draft after last season. 

“In the recruiting process, I reached out to Clark,” Battle said. “He told me that this is one of the places that will prepare you the best for the league. It’s well-respected in the league, too.”

Scalley is happy with what he’s seen from Battle during the spring. “Miles Battle,” he said, “is everything we hoped he would be.”

“He’s going to help us this fall, there’s no doubt about it,” coach Kyle Whittingham said about Battle.

Battle brings with him experience playing in the SEC. 

The Houston native arrived at Ole Miss in 2018 as a four-star wide receiver before he moved to cornerback. Battle recorded 65 tackles, 16 pass breakups and two interceptions with the Rebels, including 22 tackles, four pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble as a senior in 2022. 

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“SEC football is big out there. I played offense and defense there. I found a new love for the game playing defense,” Battle said. “I felt like I could elevate even further than where I was there. When coach Shah and coach Scalley reached out to me when I was in the portal, I had to take a visit here. I fell in love with the way the program was run. … It was a no-brainer for me.”

Shah recalled how Battle ended up with the Utes after entering the transfer portal. 

“His interest in our program — he knew about us,” Shah said. “My first question to Miles was, ‘What do you know about Utah?’ He started rattling off facts that were so impressive,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I love you.’ He was like, ‘Coach, I love what you guys do. You develop people and I see it.’

“... He said, ‘I need some development. And I want to be with a good program that has a coaching staff that’s been in place for a long time and runs the same defense.’ He’s had three different position coaches and several different coordinators.” 

What are Shah’s expectations for Battle?

“How can you expect a kid to be good? You can’t. I can say, ‘That kid has a foundation that can be molded into something beautiful.’ His intelligence and the reps that he’s gotten at Ole Miss, he’s been very productive,” he said. “In his bowl game, he had a similar play to Clark. What a beautiful omen. There are so many things that he brings to the table. He’s another quality piece to help us do what we want to do again.”

How has Battle adjusted to playing for Utah?

“We play a lot of man. I’m coming from a quarter system,” Battle said. “So playing a lot of man is a little change but I feel like that will be the best option for me and that will prepare me the best for the league.”

Battle added that there are differences between the SEC and the Pac-12. 

“Probably the size of the players,” he said. “Skill positions are going to be the same but the speed out here is a lot faster than it was in the SEC in the skill positions.”

Asked about his strengths, Battle said, “My style of play is, I’m a long, rangy corner. Man coverage is what fits me best. Just being able to play inside and out, that’s another thing that they do here that I feel like would elevate my game playing inside and outside and being very versatile, like Jalen Ramsey did with the Rams.”

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Of course, there are other adjustments that Battle has had to make — like the elevation and the weather. 

“When I first got here, I’m not going to lie, it took me a minute to get my lungs right, being in elevation, coming from the South. But I feel like I’ve gotten it pretty good now,” he said. “On my (recruiting) visit here, they were like, ‘It doesn’t snow this much here.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’ Then I got here and it’s been snowing almost every other day. I’m getting used to it. Another thing, if you want to play at the next level, you have to play in every weather condition. So that’s another add to it.”

Battle said he’s comfortable in Salt Lake City, the snow notwithstanding.

“Ole Miss is in a small town but I’m from a big city. It kind of refreshed me back to the big-city vibe,” he said. “Being in the cold was a change. I know back home it’s like 75 (degrees) and sunny and everybody’s got shorts on. But being in every condition and being able to play in every condition is a plus.”

And Battle is hoping that a strong season at Utah can help send him to the NFL.

Mississippi cornerback Miles Battle reacts after a play during game against Alabama in Oxford, Miss., Nov. 12, 2022.
Mississippi cornerback Miles Battle reacts after a play during a game against Alabama in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. The Utes landed Battle via the transfer portal in the offseason. | Thomas Graning, Associated Press