Scottsdale Christian freshman QB Jack Miller mentored by Tim Tebow
He’s the big kid on a small campus, and he’s got 10 more days before he steps foot in his first high school classroom.
Scottsdale Christian Academy plays one level above 8-man football. But quarterback Jack Miller already is being touted not just as one of the best freshman quarterbacks in Arizona but among the best in the state. Any class. Any conference.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has had family friend Tim Tebow mentoring him, taking him as an eighth grader to SEC games.
He has highly regarded quarterback coach Dennis Gile working with him.
And he's been helped by Tim Rattay's favorite high school target in the 1990s, Tim Kohner, who coached Jack for two years at Northwest Christian Middle School and is now the offensive coordinator at SCA.
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"First, it was finding coaching that would develop him as a young man, build his character as a leader," said Jack Miller Sr., Jack's father. "We found that in (SCA head coach) Chuck Gibbs and Tim Kohner. Both great men and football minds."
Conferring with college coaches about playing at a big school opposed to a small school in high school, the elder Miller said, "They preferred Jack to play varsity sooner than later and size of school was less important than reps in a power offense as the main guy."
When Miller attended Ole Miss’ camp, he was among four quarterbacks who advanced to another level for being able to throw the ball 50 miles per hour and 50 yards.
“For them to look at you, you have to throw 50 miles an hour from 50 yards,” Kohner said.
Gile gushes when Miller’s name is brought up.
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“The whole SEC knows about him,” said Gile, who worked with Kyle Allen in high school when he took off and became the No. 1-rated quarterback in the nation by his senior year at Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
Gile said when Miller was in the sixth grade, he was making throws most high school quarterback couldn’t make.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this kid has a cannon,’ " Gile said. “He could make the touch throws. It was like he was born to be a quarterback.
“He just turned 14. He’s big, strong, tough. He has a cannon. He’s throwing the ball 65 yards at the high school level. He does it all. I watched him play a couple of games (last year). Tebow was there. He’d throw four or five TDs and run for three or four every game. He’s extremely competitive.
“He is guaranteed, barring injury, to be the top quarterback in the country.”
Time will tell, but for now Miller is keeping both feet planted to the SCA synthetic surface, preparing for his first varsity game, while coaches don’t hesitate to heap on praise before ever taking his first varsity snap.
“I would imagine there are only eight or 10 schools in the entire state where he couldn’t be the starting quarterback on the varsity,” Gibbs said.
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Miller said he met the Heisman Trophy winner from Florida a couple of years ago through Tebow’s friendship with Miller’s father. Tebow and the elder Miller, Jack Sr, are mutual close friends with a pastor in Florida.
Tebow took Miller under his wing and hardly a day passes that they don’t talk.
“He helps me with defenses, fronts, coverages, understanding the game,” Miller said. “He tells me about how important it is to be a leader, always come out with a good attitude, always have fun.”
Kohner, who was Tim Rattay’s favorite target at Phoenix Christian in the mid-1990s, has been brought on by Gibbs to be his offensive coordinator this year.
Kohner has tailored the offense for Miller to emerge as a big-time dual threat in his freshman year.
“I expect anything I’d expect out of senior,” Kohner said. “I don’t sell him short. He’s been around elite quarterbacks all over the country and he can hang with them. We’re lucky to have him over here. I think I’m selling him short if I don’t hand him the keys. There will be speed bumps along the way, learning defenses.”
Gibbs let Kohner form his offense first, then he would take any leftover players for the defense. Miller should have help with a talented tight end, Zac Lane (6-4, 214), a senior, who received an offer from Arizona Christian University.
Last year, SCA scored 440 points, going 9-2. The Eagles have to replace Christian Kalos, who ran for nearly 1,900 yards and 26 touchdowns. But this offense could be even more potent.
Kohner’s spread attack won’t vary too much from what he played with in high school with Rattay, who ended up setting NCAA passing records at Louisiana Tech, before playing in the NFL.
It will be wide open with Miller mostly running out of shotgun. But Miller will be able to run as much as he passes in this offense that has potential to put up big numbers in the 2A Conference.
Senior center Jacob Hartmann (6-0, 215) returns to anchor the offensive line.
The line may not be huge, but it is athletic and fundamentally sound, occasionally getting help from Gibbs’ 75-year-old dad, Alex, who was a well-respected offensive line coach in the SEC and the NFL, considered the guru of zone blocking.
Because this isn’t exactly Chandler High depth, most of SCA’s players have to go both ways.
With four returning starters back and another wave of athletes coming through, Gibbs will take what he can and try to turn up the heat on offenses with a physical, attacking defense.
Cole Uphaus, Austin Moyer and Will Lane have graduated after they combined for 27 tackles for losses last season when the Eagles allowed a total of 179 points in 11 games.
“I got 22 guys who can practice offense for two hours and 22 guys who can practice defense for two hours,” Gibbs said. “They come together do a 30-minute team session. That’s the key to small-school football, whether you’re 2A or 3A. How do you define your balance? How do you have depth at key positions?”
Zac Lane will also play defensive end, after he had 33 tackles and a fumble recovery as a junior.
On the lookout
Zac Lane, TE/DE, 6-4, 214, Sr.
Lane caught 22 passes for 278 yards and three TDs last season. Expect those number to go way up. Miller will take advantage of mismatches with Lane’s size and athleticism.
On the calendar
Sept. 16, Tempe Prep
This will be the first major test, playing a physical, ground-and-pound team. Tempe Prep should have a seamless transition after coach Tommy Brittain handed the keys to the program to his son, Joshua. Scottsdale Christian will know how good its offense really is coming out of this game against a solid defense.
On the record
“When you start going 9-1 in the regular season, the kids have an expectancy to win. Bringing Tim on, he comes in with an offensive mindset that I’m able to delegate that side of the ball. He’s calling all of the plays. I’m only here as a bystander. Now I can focus on the defense. We laugh, because I’m trying to take all of the kids we don’t use on offense and try to make them into defensive players. If we fail that way, it’s on me.” – head coach Chuck Gibbs.
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