Florida is the perfect fit for Miller to fulfill his promise

Dec 28, 2021 | 0 comments

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A little under a week after adding nine high school players during the Early Signing Period, Billy Napier nabbed another highly rated prospect, only this time he will arrive via the transfer portal.

Last week former Ohio State four-star quarterback Jack Miller III announced his intention to transfer to Florida.

Miller chose the Gators after spending two seasons with the Buckeyes in Columbus. He appeared in four games (all blowouts), attempted 14 passes, and completed seven for 101 yards with no touchdowns in 2021. He redshirted in 2020 as he only saw action in two games that season and recorded two rushes for 23 yards and a touchdown. 

Despite not seeing much action for OSU, Tim Kohner, Miller’s former high school offensive coordinator, thinks Miller is well-prepared to compete for a starting job in the Southeastern Conference. Kohner called him a “hungry, hungry kid who’s more focused than ever.” 

A 20-year coaching veteran, years ago Kohner took a step back from high school and decided to coach his children’s middle school football team. That’s where he met then sixth-grader Jack Miller. His parents appreciated the kind of tough love he gave and Kohner ended up following him to high school, where he was Miller’s offensive coordinator for his freshman, junior, and senior years. 

The two maintain a close friendship and, according to Kohner, talk on a daily basis. Being so close, his input was sought out at times when Miller was in the portal.  

“My message to him was number one: get on the field,” Kohner said. “Number two: surround yourself with good players and coaches.” 

Kohner believes his protege fulfilled the second criterion by joining Napier’s program. Napier was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona State in 2017, Miller’s sophomore year at Chaparral High School. 

Thus, there was familiarity as Kohner met Napier several times and Napier tried to recruit Miller to Tempe, but lost out to the Buckeyes. When it comes to character for Kohner, it’s a gut feeling. And he really appreciated Napier’s character, what he did at Louisiana, and the way he spoke with Miller about who he was as a person, not just a football player. 

“There's a shortlist of coaches, obviously, one was my…high school quarterback who's at Oklahoma State (Tim Rattay) and a few other guys that I kind of thought personally I would send my kid to and Napier is definitely on that list,” Kohner said.

That prior relationship was a big factor in Miller’s decision. Along with the appeal of playing in the Southeastern Conference and a much warmer climate than Columbus, Ohio.  

Miller is a gamer. Sometimes you won’t see it in practice but when the game starts and the lights are on he’s locked in. He possesses great mobility and arm strength, according to Kohner. He’s also improved his ability to read defenses both before and after the snap.

One weakness Kohner pointed out aside from his nature as a gamer is Miller wanting to make the big play. Sometimes he’ll try to do that instead of taking what he’s given and getting the ball out quick. He could get away with it when he was younger because of his size and athleticism. That changes as the level of competition increases. 

Check out the one below from when he was in high school. A walk-off touchdown for the win in the state’s Elite Eight. A throw Kohner said not many quarterbacks can make. 

“I think he's starting to learn,” Kohner said. “Once you can mix reading the defense, using your mind mixed with his athleticism, the sky's the limit for him.” 

The Arizona product didn’t see the field much during his time in Ohio’s state capital. In 2020, Justin Fields was the Buckeyes’ undisputed QB1. This past offseason Miller competed with fellow redshirt freshman CJ Stroud and true freshman Kyle McCord for the starting job in 2021. He and McCord lost out to the eventual Heisman finalist in Stroud. 

That could lead someone to think “He couldn’t stick it out at Ohio State, how can he at Florida?” But don’t forget Miller was a Top 15 recruit at his position, Stroud was No. 2 and McCord was the No. 25 overall recruit in the 2021 cycle. 

“I'll give credit to those guys,” Kohner said. “Those guys are darn good players too. So, I don't think it's a slight to him at all by saying, ‘Hey, I was at Ohio State’ and call it second, third, you can call it whatever you want, you know that he was battling to play.”

Something else people might find trouble with the new transfer is his arrest and citation in early November for operating a motor vehicle while impaired. Ryan Day and Ohio State suspended Miller that day. During his arraignment, he pled guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of reckless operation and agreed to pay a $150 fine and court costs. The Buckeyes reinstated Miller after that.

He’s not the first football player, nor will he be the last, to get caught in a situation like that. His teammate Marcus Hooker pled guilty to OVI and ended up suspended for the spring. Former Alabama and The Bolles School QB Mac Jones was arrested for driving under the influence as a Crimson Tide reserve in 2017 – before going on to become a first-round draft choice of the New England Patriots.

It’s still a mistake he made, one that is life-altering for so many other people every year. And Kohner was adamant there’s no getting around that he in fact did make one.

“I think in this day and age, he's got to know being a quarterback, high-profile, not to do that,” he said. “But I also don't think it wasn’t what it was painted out to be. I think he's learned from it, and can't wait to see him grow from it.”

He saw some adversity before in high school when he missed several games his final two years due to injuries. But not winning the quarterback competition, the isolation COVID created and the legal issue was a kind of adversity Miller hadn’t encountered before. 

Miller’s response to that adversity is Kohner’s most proud moment. He’s learned to deal with not playing, being stuck in a room by himself, and being away from the team. People might’ve thought he left OSU because was disinterested or upset he wasn’t playing.

However, Kohner said that wasn’t the case at all. 

“I feel that I’ve seen him grow so much as a person,” he said. “I’m kind of more proud (of) that than what he’s done football-wise.”  

One thing he noticed about Miller was the growth of the young man’s leadership from his junior to his senior year and since he’s been at OSU. 

“Even when he’s injured, he’s the biggest cheerleader,” Kohner said.

Napier wouldn’t bring in someone just to not compete for the starting job. A new face in the Florida QB room who is coming off his own position battle at a top-tier program could even push the progression of someone like Anthony Richardson, Carlos Del Rio-Wilson or Jalen Kitna that much more. 

Kohner is quite excited to see how Miller attacks this opportunity at a different school. 

“I think he's grateful for the second chance,” Kohner said. “I think he's grateful for another opportunity to start playing. I think he's more motivated than ever, and I think he’ll be more focused than ever.”

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