Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment on Sunday afternoon from one the nation's premier underclassmen when Scottsdale, Arizona, Chaparral four-star quarterback Jack Miller pledged his services to the Buckeyes a little over a week after unofficial visit for the program's annual Friday Night Lights recruiting extravaganza.
Let's take a look at what Miller — the No. 47 prospect overall in the Class of 2020 — brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Miller set state records with 3,653 yards passing and 53 touchdown passes as a freshman at Scottsdale Christian, which landed him early offers from some of the nation's top programs.
“His natural instinct, his willingness to learn and his God-given ability to move and throw the football [stand out],” Tim Kohner — who coached Miller for two years at Northwest Christian Middle School, was his offensive coodinator at Scottsdale Christian and will once again be his offensive coordinator this season at Chaparral — told Eleven Warriors. “At his size and his age, he's got a competitive advantage. He's always been bigger, faster and stronger than the kids he's been around.”
Miller transferred to Chaparral last offseason following the death of a family friend who was struck by a vehicle while crossing the street to watch him play a game. He was supposed to miss the first five games of his sophomore after the Arizona Interscholastic Association ruled his transfer to be athletically motivated, but the ruling was overturned two games into the season when it was deemed the move was aimed toward improving his mental well-being.
Miller reportedly sought counseling because of the reoccurring nightmares following the tragic accident. Upon his return last fall, he proceeded to throw for 1,735 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 306 yards and four more scores to lead the Firebirds to the second round of the state playoffs.
“I believe he'll be a great asset for Ohio State,” Kohner said, citing his ability to run the read-option to perfection. “The good thing about a running quarterback — and I hate to tag someone as a 'running' quarterback or even a dual-threat — Jack is more along the lines of a [Philadelphia Eagles quarterback] Carson Wentz-type of guy. He's more of a pocket passer, throw the ball first than a guy who is going to just scramble around. Unless it's a designed run play, which obviously Jack excels at. I think he'll be a great fit for Urban Meyer and his offense.”
Kohner offered a few ways in which he can improve, too
“Footwork, pre-snap reads and moving on to second or third reads if someone's not open,” he said. “Again, the blessing and the curse of being the size and speed he is, he can break the pocket and roll out whenever he wants. We're constantly working on not breaking the pocket and roll out too soon. Let's stay in the pocket, do your progression and throw the ball.”
IN THE CLASS
Miller becomes the fourth member of Ohio State's to-be-named 2020 recruiting class, joining Cincinnati St. Xavier five-star offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr, Georgia four-star offensive tackle Jake Wray and IMG Academy four-star cornerback Lejond Cavazos. And while his pledge would typically be a testament to Meyer's ability to identify prospects and forge relationships with them early in the process, there was a little bit of luck involved this time.
The Buckeyes were fortunate to have stayed at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort — which is run by Miller's father — during their last two trips to the Fiesta Bowl, which is how the two parties originally met.
The only other program connected to Miller over the past few years, meanwhile, has been Ole Miss. His mother is originally from Jackson, Mississippi, while his sister currently attends school in Oxford. But given the Rebels' on-field struggles and off-field incidents over the last few seasons, they were never truly perceived as a threat to Ohio State.
Meyer had Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow — whom he coached at Florida — in his back pocket, as well. Tebow and Miller have known each other for several years, as he and Miller's father are mutual friends of a pastor in the Sunshine State. The two talk almost daily about everything from pass coverages to religion.
All that said, it appears Ohio State is set at the quarterback position for the foreseeable future. With Dwan Mathis’ commitment last Sunday and Miller’s this afternoon, the position is no longer a great need moving forward. The staff will still look to add another signal-caller next year for depth purposes, however.
With that in mind, Georgia four-star Harrison Bailey is a name to remember. He’s Wray’s teammate, so that could certainly improve the Buckeyes’ chances. However, it’s much more likely the staff lands a developmental prospect like Minnesota three-star (and five-star point guard) Jalen Suggs than another elite signal-caller like Bailey to fill the other spot.
From the time Ohio State extended a scholarship offer to Miller last spring, fans and recruiting analysts alike couldn't help but make the comparisons to former quarterback commit Danny Clark. It was someone understandable given both were coming off a stellar freshman season at the time of their offer, and there were concerns about how he'd develop over the next few years.
“In terms of his development or his underdevelopment, things of that nature, I think it's more of praying and evaluating the system,” Kohner said. “My advice to Jack has been to take his time and make sure the coaches, the atmosphere and the system is comfortable for him."
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day did his due diligence with Miller, as well. He watched him play in person and throw on several other occasions, which only solidified what the staff thought of the young signal-caller. There's no reason to think we'll see a repeat of Clark's situation — or, on a similar note, what happened last cycle with former four-star commit Emory Jones, who flipped to Florida late in the process after taking official visits elsewhere throughout his senior season.
"When Jack commits, he's going to be committed," Kohner said. "I hope the school is to him, too."