FORT WAYNE – On these chilly days across the artificial landscape of Bishop DArcy Stadium, there is no question as to who the offensive leader is on the Saint Francis football team.
With spring drills going full throttle – pedal down in a rush toward Fridays spring game – senior Josh Miller, wearing the yellow jersey of the untouchable quarterbacks, sprints out of the formation with authority. His feet are fast. His pass is true. With his head high and shoulders square, he moves with purpose and precision.
If only his October could be like his April.
If only for the width and depth of an entire football season he could be this strong, this good, this healthy.
This is year No. 3 in which Miller, the 6-foot-1 senior from Kalida, Ohio, has had his name written in ink across the top of the Saint Francis quarterback depth chart.
He was there as a sophomore, but in a preseason scrimmage incurred a shoulder injury that took months to heal. He played a little slot receiver. He played a little running back. He played little at quarterback.
He was there again last year – top of the heap – and got through four games unscathed until he suffered a severe high ankle sprain during an emotional victory at defending NAIA champion Saint Xavier.
And now he is, like Sinatra would sing it, back on top again. The hold-your-breath, knock-on-wood, cross-your-fingers question is: How long?
Miller started seven of the Cougars 12 games last season; junior David Yoder started the other five.
For much of the second half of last year, it seemed as though the coaching staff had to spin the Wheel of Quarterbacks to determine who would get the start.
After Millers injury, it was Yoder, twice in a row; then back to Miller, twice; back to Yoder; back to Miller; and finally, back to Yoder to finish out the season.
It is difficult, Miller said. Like anything, if you dont practice and fine-tune your craft, obviously then you start to lose your skills a little bit. Having to focus on getting healthy and not being able to participate, it has been kind of difficult in getting back to the swing of things and getting timing with the receivers.
Last season was a challenge for offensive coordinator Pat Donley as well. While many of the offensive calls remain the same, the execution varied from quarterback to quarterback.
Miller is a runner; a scrambler, which may explain his penchant for injuries. Yoder is a pocket slinger, which explains his nine interceptions with his 11 touchdown passes.
Each of them do something a little bit better than the other one, but I think the game plan is roughly the same; its not drastically different, Donley said.
The approach is more toward the opponent, more so (than) the ability of our player, whoever is in there. Game plans are different week to week. Both of those guys are capable of making any play that we ask them to make.