Jack Miller brings extensive high school experience to Ohio State quarterback competition

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra

Editor’s note: The is the first in a series of three stories looking at Ohio State's offseason quarterback competition to replace Justin Fields. Part 2: Kyle McCord. Part 3: C.J. Stroud.

Jack Miller threw nearly a thousand passes in four seasons as a starting quarterback at Chaparral High School in the Phoenix suburbs, but Brent Barnes remembers one of the last ones.

It was the final regular-season game for Chaparral in 2019. Trailing Peoria Liberty by five points with three seconds left, its offense stood 7 yards from reaching the end zone and clinching a postseason berth.

Pushed outside the pocket by a pair of pass rushers, Miller retreated to his right side while scanning for a target downfield, ultimately hurling a pass toward a back pylon that landed in the hands of one of his receivers for a 36-35 victory.

“It didn’t go as drawn up,” said Barnes, Chaparral’s coach, “and he just found a way to buy time and go out and make a play.”

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Barnes believes the series reveals the poise of Miller, who stayed composed throughout the game-winning drive, especially as pressure flooded the backfield before the final heave.

Ohio State quarterback Jack Miller (9) didn't throw a pass as a freshman, but he did run for a touchdown late in the Buckeyes' season-opening victory over Nebraska.

None of the quarterbacks vying to take over as the starter at Ohio State when spring practice begins Friday have significant experience in college.  

Neither the 19-year-old Miller, nor freshman Kyle McCord or fellow redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud has thrown a pass in a college game.

But Miller does bring an extensive prep pedigree, starting as a freshman at Scottsdale Christian Academy before transferring to Chaparral for his final three years of high school.

That period of time served as a deep training ground ahead of his attempt to succeed Fields behind center for the Buckeyes.

“He had a lot of moments where he had to dig deep and make plays and make throws,” Barnes said. “When he was doing that in his junior and senior year, it was like second nature because of all the experience. I have to believe that’s going to benefit him. He’s not going to ever feel like a moment’s too big for him or he’s not ready or prepared.”

Miller’s size allowed him to step onto the field immediately in high school. He had grown to 6 feet tall in middle school and displayed a variety of promising physical traits.  

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Mike Giovando, a private quarterbacks coach in Arizona who began training Miller when he was in the sixth grade, noticed his arm strength.

“He was physically already there,” said Giovando, who continues to work with Miller and other Power Five conference quarterbacks, including Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler. “You looked at (him) and went, ‘Wow, this kid could be pretty good.’ He’s already at this point with his size and body. Those are the things you can’t coach, you just hope that happens.”

Miller, now listed as 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds, also took to early coaching and built proficient throwing mechanics.

Giovando credited the passer’s background in golf. Like a lot of boys growing up in Scottsdale, he roamed the greens at an early age and spent hours swinging golf clubs, a motion requiring him to rotate his hips in an effort to drive the ball down a fairway.

Throwing a football requires much of the same energy from the body’s lower half, Giovando noted. The similarities clicked.

College scholarship offers began arriving at the end of his freshman season, in 2016. The Buckeyes extended an offer to Miller after he attended a camp in Columbus in June 2017. He committed the following summer.

Though growing up nearly 2,000 miles west of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Miller had a unique window into the OSU program, then led by Urban Meyer.

He had befriended one of Meyer’s former Florida players in Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. When visiting Arizona, Tebow had stayed at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a five-star resort where Miller's father, Jack Jr., works as the general manager.

In interviews in high school, Miller described Tebow as a mentor, especially early in his recruitment. Though Meyer retired after the 2018 season, the four-star recruit remained committed to Ohio State.

Circumstances further changed when coach Ryan Day pursued a second QB in his first class in order to add depth to the room; he ultimately identified Stroud.

Miller remained undeterred. He had experience on Friday nights and already persevered through some adversity, recovering from knee and shoulder injuries that sidelined him for a handful of games during his final two high school seasons.

He also recognized a quarterback competition at a school such as Ohio State was always going to be a challenge, filled with other heralded former blue-chip prospects.

“If you want to be the best, you’re going to have to compete with the best,” said Barnes, his former high school coach. “If you want to go to a team that’s not normally in the top 25, then I guess you might not have a ton of competition. But there’s very few Division I colleges that the quarterback is not going to have competition. He understood that. And he’s confident in his ability.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman

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